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Let’s Measure What Happens With the Western Ave Shutdown This Weekend

The future Bloomingdale Trail bridge over Western Avenue. Image: The 606 project.

Crews will be demolishing a viaduct over Western Avenue this weekend as part of Bloomingdale Trail construction, necessitating the closure of Western and diverting automobile traffic and CTA buses to Damen and California, each a half mile away. People walking or biking will be rerouted to the underpasses a block away on either side.

The street will be closed for two blocks -- except to local traffic -- between Wabansia and Cortland from 8 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday.

This closure presents a great opportunity for the city to track how people adjust to a short-term change in the street grid. The Chicago Department of Transportation could use weekend traffic count data for Western and the detour routes to see just how many car trips are diverted or avoided. However, CDOT spokesperson Pete Scales said he wasn't aware of a study taking place.

That's too bad, because experience has shown that people are incredibly adaptable when the street network gets disrupted and they have time to plan in advance. While this short construction project is very different than the permanent redesign envisioned for Ashland BRT, measuring the traffic outcomes this weekend could help demonstrate the basic concept that when you reduce driving capacity, people take different routes, switch to another mode of travel, or consolidate trips.

This bridge over Western will be demolished this weekend.
This bridge over Western will be demolished this weekend.
This bridge over Western will be demolished this weekend.

Similar closures will take place soon at Milwaukee Avenue and Ashland Avenue. (The Ashland bridge will be transported to be installed over Western.)

Western Avenue detour map. Image: CDOT
Western Avenue detour map. Image: CDOT
Western Avenue detour map. Image: CDOT

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