Yet Another Sidewalk Closure Forces Pedestrians Into the Street

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Pedestrians waiting for the walk signal at the northwest corner of Roosevelt/Canal on Friday. They were in danger of being struck by turning motorists. Photo: John Greenfield

Recently, Steven Vance wrote about how curb ramp construction along Fullerton in Logan Square was forcing pedestrians off of the sidewalk and into the street. Last week, Streetsblog reader Brian Sobolak alerted us to a similar issue, at the busy intersection of Roosevelt and Canal in the South Loop, near several shopping centers.

The sidewalk at the northwest corner of this intersection had been excavated and barricaded, and signs were posted announcing that the sidewalk was closed. However, there were no pedestrian accommodations. “There are lots of signs for where cars can go, but nothing for pedestrians,” Sobolak wrote. “They are forced to wait in the street.”

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The intersection, earlier in the week. Photo: Brian Sobolak

I sent a heads-up about the problem to Chicago Department of Transportation spokesman Pete Scales, who put me in touch with his counterpart at the Department of Water Management, Gary Litherland. Last Thursday, Litherland told me that DWM recently put in a water main at the location, and that contractor Benchmark Construction was redoing the sidewalk and wheelchair ramps prior to street repaving. “However, this does look like a bit of a mess as far as pedestrians are concerned,” he said.

Litherland said he’d alerted the project’s resident engineer about the issue and asked if something could be done to better accommodate people on foot . “It’s a congested area,” he told me. “But we will be doing everything we can to make this a safer intersection for pedestrians, and drivers as well.” He said he hoped that the engineer would address the problem the next day.

It rained heavily Thursday night, and when I dropped by the site in person late Friday afternoon, I saw that Benchmark had covered the wooden boards on the perimeter of the corner with tarps. Otherwise, nothing had changed. People on foot still had to do a wide detour around the construction to access the northwest corner. Those crossing from that corner to the northeast and southwest sides of the intersection waited for the walk signal in the street, where they were endangered by turning motorists.

I called Litherland with an update. “We will do what we can to make it safer for everyone,” he told me. He said he hoped that the construction would be finished over the weekend, which would eliminate the problem.

CDOT’s “Rules and Regulations for Construction in the Public Way” dictate that, when a construction project blocks access to a sidewalk or transit stop, the contractor must provide a safe route for pedestrians, on the same side of the street. “Pedestrians should not be led into conflict with vehicles, equipment, and operations around the work site,” the document states.

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A senior detours around the construction while crossing from the southwest corner to the northwest on Friday. Photo: John Greenfield

It would have been simple for Benchmark to avoid leading pedestrians into conflict with vehicles at Roosevelt/Canal. They could have simply set down Jersey barriers to create a protected walkway around the corner. Sure, this would have caused a slight inconvenience for drivers, who would have had to navigate around the barriers. But that’s a minor drawback for the city, compared to the possibility of a lawsuit if a pedestrian is injured or killed due to the unsafe conditions.

Have you noticed any other locations where contractors have failed to accommodate walking? Let us know.

Updated on October 6, 5 p.m.:

According to Litherland, Benchmark poured the concrete today, and the northwest corner of Roosevelt/Canal should be reopened to pedestrians in the next day or two.

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