Reilly to CDOT: Please Fix Dearborn Protected Bike Lane’s Lousy Pavement

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The Dearborn bike lane at Adams. Photo: John Greenfield

Downtown alderman Brendan Reilly is known as the man who tried to get the Kinzie protected bike lanes removed, but he recently racked up some bike lane karma. Shaun Jacobsen, the urban planner behind the transportation blog Transitized, wrote to Reilly to about poor pavement conditions on the Dearborn two-way protected bike lane. The alderman promptly reached out to the appropriate city departments to try to solve these problems.

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Letter from Reilly to Scheinfeld. Click to enlarge.

Currently the worst stretches of the Dearborn lane are between Adams and Monroe, and between Randolph and Lake. On these blocks, channels were cut out of the street to accommodate utility work, right in the middle of the bike lane. After the work was done, the troughs were filled with concrete but were never repaved with asphalt, resulting in a rough, bumpy riding surface.

On August 2, Reilly wrote Chicago Department of Transportation commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld about the problem. “I respectfully request your department dispatch a maintenance team to survey and repair the damaged bike lane on Dearborn Street,” he said. “My office has received reports that a number of utility projects in this area have damaged the pavement, causing potholes and uneven terrain.”

Reilly asked that CDOT inspectors determine whether the utility work was done by private contractors or city workers, and requested that CDOT ensure that the bike lane would be repaired as soon as possible. He also asked the commissioner to report back to him when the bike lane is fixed.

Unfortunately the repairs aren’t going to be made immediately, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. “Dearborn will be getting resurfaced this fall, once all the utility work is wrapped up,” said CDOT spokesman Mike Claffey this morning. He added that the Kinzie protected lanes, which have also been affected by utility cuts, as well as Randolph, which is slated for a new westbound curb-protected bike lane this year, will also be repaved in the fall.

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Utility cut on Dearborn at Randolph. Photo: John Greenfield

Claffey didn’t immediately respond when I asked whether short-term repairs could be done soon, seeing as how the pavement problem on Dearborn and Kinzie has existed for months. But this afternoon the following statement was posted on the CDOT Bikes Facebook page:

Numerous Department of Water Management (DWM) and private utility projects in the CBD have impacted some of Chicago’s most traveled bikeways. We appreciate everyone’s patience and understanding while this critical infrastructure work takes place. The good news is that most of these projects are in their final stages and soon three streets will have fresh pavement and new bike lanes to ride.

The post specified that the work on Dearborn between Madison and Wacker is supposed to be finished in September, after which that stretch will be repaved and the bike lane will be reinstalled. Work on the stretch of Dearborn between Adams and Monroe should be completed in October. Kinzie will be completed sometime this fall.

Utility work on Randolph is slated for completion by Labor Day, after which the street will be repaved and the new protected lane will be installed. However, construction of new developments on Randolph between State and Dearborn and Wells and Franklin will continue into next year, delaying the installation of the curb-protected lane on these blocks. In the meantime, CDOT will install temporary signs and pavement markings to shepherd cyclists.

Despite the fact that the bike lanes won’t be immediately fixed, Jacobsen says he’s satisfied with Reilly’s efforts. “I think his response is good, and from what I’ve experienced with other aldermen it’s much better follow-up,” Jacobsen said. “In the end I feel like this is an issue with CDOT. They are, after all, the department that seems to take years to simply paint a new crosswalk.”

  • I commend Alderman Reilly for his prompt action in this matter. Sadly, this is not an isolated case. Countless Chicago streets are in similar condition; work is done that necessitates opening the street, and afterwards the surface is patched in (more often than not) slapdash fashion, and left in severely uneven state for years. Acceptable for big-wheeled SUVs perhaps, but truly dangerous for cyclists for multiple reasons. Resurfacing the entire street is likely impractical/costly after every job requiring a dig, but why not require contractors to patch damage evenly? Obviously this is possible, because there are various examples where contractors did just that.

    On a related note: What is up with the squares of asphalt removal (there’s one on Montrose between Hazel and Clarendon)? I see them appear around this time every years, and they remain often for weeks without any sign of work done.

  • Pat

    I think those squares are just a lack of coordination between the various utilities, property owners, and city department.

    Generally, you’ll see them pop up when a new (and larger) building is going up. I would guess that layer is stripped away so new gas, sewer, and water hookups can be installed. Given that these are utilities and its Chicago, I would imagine there is zero coordination among these entities and zero pressure to do it within say a span of two weeks.

  • JKM13

    I haven’t been able to ride northbound on milwaukee between pulaski and addison for over 2 years (maybe 3 at this point, its been a long time). That section of the road is dangerous.

  • what_eva

    There’s a big chunk of Southport between Webster and Belmont where water or sewer work was done a year or two ago. Only one side of the street got repaved when it was done. So the NB side where there was work is pristine, the SB side is now very old and in terrible shape.

  • Anne A

    I happened to pass by Dearborn and Randolph today, where there is still a big crater on Randolph where utility work is being done.

  • Carter O’Brien

    This has basically been an epidemic since at least the late 90s housing boom, when City agencies couldn’t keep up with the frantic pace of new construction. Chicago has always done destruction better than construction when it comes to the streets – seems to me this is an externality cost to new construction that should be born by the developers.

  • Pat

    Poor Halsted Street right next to New City. That fresh stretch lasted about 3 months.

    And would it kill the City to shore up Clyborn when they put in the PBLs. Why put in the nice new curbs right on top of that POS pavement?!

  • Mcass777

    Or how about the gas work that has Elston torn up from Addison to Webster. Brutal in sections.

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