CDOT Will Convert a Lane of Lower LSD to Bike/Ped Path During Flyover Work

Converting a lane of northbound Lower LSD to a temporary bike/ped path, as CDOT plans to do next year, will  actually make the Lakefront Trail wider than it currently is in this section. Image: Google Street View
Converting a lane of northbound Lower LSD to a temporary bike/ped path, as CDOT plans to do next year, will actually make the Lakefront Trail wider than it currently is in this section. Image: Google Street View

Earlier this week, after the Chicago Department of Transportation announced that the Navy Pier Flyover completion will be delayed by another six months, to mid-2019. In response, the Active Transportation Alliance called on CDOT to convert the lane of Lower Lake Shore Drive nearest to the Lakefront Trail to a temporary bike/ped path, separated from traffic by a physical barrier. Streetsblog’s Steven Vance proposed this quick, relatively low-cost idea as an alternative to the $60 million-plus flyover back in 2012.

Yesterday CDOT spokesman Mike Claffey clarified that the department is actually planning on doing this, closing the easternmost northbound lane of Lower LSD in order to accommodate foot and bike traffic while a segment of the Lakefront Trail is closed for Phase III of construction. This stage of the project, which involves building a new wider, cantilevered trail across the Chicago River, is currently slated to begin in spring 2018.

A rendering of the converted lower LSD lane that Erich Stenzel created for Steven Vance back in 2012. Note that both pedestrians and cyclists will use the on-street path during Phase III of the flyover construction.
A rendering of the converted lower LSD lane that Erich Stenzel created for Steven Vance back in 2012. Note that both pedestrians and cyclists will use the on-street path during Phase III of the flyover construction.

Claffey noted that the average annual daily traffic on this stretch of northbound and southbound Lower LSD is about 11,800 motor vehicle trips for each direction. This suggests that closing one of four the lanes for the temporary path isn’t going to cause congestion problems for drivers.

South of Grand Avenue, the path currently exists as relatively narrow sidewalk with several tight bottlenecks, so the on-street detour will represent a significant improvement. That begs the question, why not create this wider on-street path immediately, instead of making pedestrians and cyclists wait several more months until Phase III starts?

  • Dan

    Will the sidewalk close when the on street lanes are added?

  • Snotty

    so because they can’t get that flyover done – the temporary fix is what should have been the permanent one
    smh Chicago

  • Tooscrapps

    Sounds like the bridge bike/ped path will be closed during construction.

    So effectively all we get is a little more room than we had at the bridge house pinch points. And if they only stripe it (rather than some sort of repaving), a downgrade in pavement quality to boot.

  • Jamie Moncrief

    Curious – CDOT once suggested segregating the pedestrians from the bikers by directing bikes onto the northbound sidewalk (seen in the photo above) and putting the walkers on the frequently overlooked sidewalk along the southbound lane. I guess that idea has been scrapped? Either way, thanks for the update!

  • ChicagoCyclist

    Some questions, which I hope John Greenfield can get answers on: What
    would the termini of “Steven’s compromise,” bollard-protected two-way
    bike lane be? Would the bollard-protected two-way bike lane begin (at its
    northern limit) at Grand Ave.? Or at Illinois St.? What would the southern terminus be? Where and how, I wonder, will it connect to the existing path, just south of the bridge over the river? Will right turns from northbound Lower Lakeshore onto Illinois be forbidden? Or will a separate phase for bikes (and peds) be implemented? Does CDOT plan to force slower traffic speeds on Lower Lakeshore, since they are essentially making a “countraflow” situation, where bikes — albeit, presumably, separated by bollards — will be traveling against adjacent automobile traffic?

  • Cameron Puetz

    Are they closing the lane to increase the space available soon, or is this just a construction detour when the current trail is closed for Phase III construction? It sounds like the lane will only be converted to bike/ped use when the trail is closed for construction similar to the detour used a few years ago when a section collapsed.

  • Danpatb

    As someone who drives this every day – and also runs this about 3 times a week – it is a great idea. The biggest problem for runners/bikers/drivers is the chaotic intersection of Illinois and lower LSD. As a driver trying to turn right at Illinois one needs to watch for vehicle traffic from the north turning east as well as from the west and ped/cycle traffic from east, west, north and south. As a runner trying to navigate the intersection is … thrilling. One thing they will need to consider is the timing of the lights. Often, traffic turning from lower wacker to NB lower LSD gets back up during evening rush hour. If signals are not coordinated, SB lower LSD will get blocked and backed up – also affecting Grand the off ramp from SB upper LSD and further aggravating the back up on NB lower LSD.

  • Don Gordon

    Why wait? And how long will this take to do?

  • johnaustingreenfield

    “Are they closing the lane to increase the space available soon, or is this just a construction detour when the current trail is closed for Phase III construction?” The latter.

  • Carter O’Brien

    “Thrilling!” could be a winning rebranding effort for this stretch – maybe they can market it in conjunction with a ride on the Ferris Wheel. Look out Great America, here comes lower LSD…

  • Exactly. They’ve had years to do something that would have had an immediate impact and improvement for the people (25,000 people daily on weekends) who use the Lakefront Trail.

  • I proposed going to the northern limit at Grand Avenue.

    Drivers are currently allowed to turn right from northbound LSD to eastbound Grand Avenue, even though Grand is a one-way westbound street, to access the motor court of Lake Point Tower. This is a seldom used movement so I think that this lane could be a shared-use lane (bicyclists and motorists could share the lane because there would rarely be cars in it; this would eliminate the need to have a protected turn phase for bicyclists going straight northbound into the Jane Addams Memorial park or “grove” and continuing on to the northbound Lakefront Trail.

    In my proposal, right turns for motorists from NB LSD to EB Illinois would need a separate signal phase.

    The bollards depicted in the rendering by Erich Stenzel above are supposed to be solid, which is not current CDOT or IDOT practice as a way to separate biking ways from driving ways.

  • So putting people on opposite sides of Lower Lake Shore Drive? I don’t really like that idea. I don’t think the sidewalk on the southbound side (west side) connects in any way back to the Lakefront Trail on the east side of Lake Shore Drive. Does it even connect to a sidewalk on Wacker Drive where Wacker and Lower LSD meet?

  • Don’t forget that the first public meeting about the Navy Pier Flyover was in 2001. This is taking longer than the Bloomingdale Trail which is, arguably, a more complex (and expensive) project.

    Official IDOT Phase 1 Public Meeting with Court Recorder – 10/30/01
    Task Force Meeting – 3/13/03
    Public Meeting ay Navy Pier – 4/24/03
    Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council Meetings – 12/10/08 & 12/9/09
    SOAR Neighborhood Action Task Force – 5/11/10
    Public Meeting with Alderman Reilly at Navy Pier, Room 328 – 7/15/10
    Plan Commission for Lakefront Protection Ordinance – 2/17/11
    Public Meeting with the Chicago Park District Board – 11/10/11
    (I don’t have a list of public meetings after 2011.)

  • Jamie Moncrief

    People use the Lower LSD sidewalk on the west side all the time, accessing from the trail below through the Lake Shore Drive Bridge’s southwest staircase. (The sidewalk is actually wider in most places than the east side – but there are a few curbs) Walkers can re-join the trail at both Illinois Street and Grand Ave by simply crossing the street using the marked crosswalks – obviously not an option for folks in wheelchairs, which was an argument against the idea when it was floated by CDOT at one of their Flyover town hall meetings.

  • jsb

    LOL

  • johnaustingreenfield

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