The City Is Finally Tackling the Complex, Dangerous Cermak/Wentworth Intersection

Aerial rendering of the new street layout. Image: CDOT
Aerial rendering of the new street layout. Image: CDOT

Today city officials kicked off work to straighten out the skewed, dangerous, and sometimes deadly intersection of Cermak and Wentworth in the heart of Chinatown. The dog-leg junction is nearly a perfect storm of traffic complications, sitting just west of a massive access ramp for the Dan Ryan and a CTA Red Line station with high foot traffic. There are currently multiple signal phases, and pedestrians aren’t allowed to cross the east leg of the intersection. In March 2017 a turning truck driver fatally struck Augustin Arroyo, 56, at this crossroads.

Fixing Cermak/Wells is part of a larger project called the Cermak-Wells Connector that will eventually make it possible to travel directly north through the upcoming, massive Rezkoville development on the east bank of the Chicago River south of Roosevelt, and continue all the way to Harrison in the South Loop. Phase I of the project, completed last year, involved rebuilding Wentworth Avenue between 17th and 19th streets, adding a buffered bike lane and improving pedestrian and bike access to the Ping Tom Memorial Park Fieldhouse.

Aerial view of the skewed Cermak / Wentworth intersection. Image: Google Maps
Aerial view of the skewed Cermak / Wentworth intersection, prior to the demolition of Three Happiness restaurant at the northwest corner. Image: Google Maps

Phase II will realign Wentworth between Archer and Cermak, and will also include building a new plaza on the east side of Wentworth at 19th to highlight the entrances to both parts of Ping Tom Park. A mid-block crossing with a pedestrian island will also be installed on Archer across from the main entrance of the Chinatown Square pedestrianized dining district. This stretch of Wentworth will also get a non-buffered bike lane.

Energy-efficient LED lighting will be installed along Wentworth between 19th and Cermak, and decorative lights will be installed along Cermak. The initiative also includes 77 new trees and landscaping designed to help reduce the flow of storm water to sewers.

7077_20180508_19th.sm
Rendering of the plaza planned for the east side of Wentworth at 19th. Image: CDOT

The Wells-Wentworth project has been coordinated by the Chicago Department of Transportation and the Department of Planning and Development. CDOT is also coordinating relocation of bus stops with the Chicago Transit Authority along Wentworth and Archer, including installation of new concrete bus pads.

Phase III of the project will involve building the new segments of Wentworth/Wells north of 17th. Bike sidepaths will be constructed along the road between 16th and Roosevelt.

Scheinfeld, Emanuel, and a local community leader break ground on Phase II of the Wells-Wentworth Connector. Photo: John Greenfield
Scheinfeld, Emanuel, Chinatown Chamber of Commerce president Tony Shu, and a crew member break ground on Phase II of the Wells-Wentworth Connector. Photo: John Greenfield

At today’s groundbreaking, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the road reconstruction is part of efforts to make sure Chicago’s Chinatown, one of the few such neighborhoods in the U.S. to gain population in recent years, growing by 24 percent between 2000 and 2010, continues to flourish. He also touted his upcoming trip to East Asia, including a meeting with CRRC Sifang America, which is opening an ‘L’ car manufacturing plant on Chicago’s Southeast Side, to help ensure that the $1.3 billion contract “does not become a victim of Donald Trump’s trade war.”

The Cermak/Wentworth reconfiguration project seems to have been progressing slowly, since CDOT demolished the large Three Happiness restaurant at the northwest corner of the intersection in 2016 to make way for the new road section. CDOT Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld attributed the time lag to “the regular process of getting through the real estate acquisition and demolition and finishing out the design and bidding of the process.”

The recently reconstructed section of Wentworth at 18th Street. Photo: John Greenfield
The recently reconstructed section of Wentworth at 18th Street. Photo: John Greenfield

Scheinfeld compared the Cermak/Wentworth project to the equally long-awaited Fullerton/Damen/Elston reconfiguration. However she noted that while that project involved separating a complex intersection with three closely-spaced traffic signals into three separate intersections, the Chinatown initiative essentially condenses the junction. “Instead of having an offset intersection, it will be a normal four-way crossing.” A crosswalk will be added to the east leg and the signal patterns will be simplified. “This intersection is going to become more predictable and intuitive for everybody,” she promised.”

  • LazyReader

    Chicago is virtually broke, 63 Billion in debt and just recently it mayor Rahm Emannuel had to go to Springfield with his hat out, begging the state for rescue funds….where are they getting the money for this? They had 665 homicides and over 2,500 shootings, but an intersection is “dangerous”

  • Chicago60609

    You’re not wrong, but a city needs to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time.

  • Guy Ross

    This is the closest L stop to the McCormick on the Red. The McCormick is one of the major profit centers for the city. Currently no one takes the L to the McCormick and rather sit in Taxis for most of the morning waiting to get dropped off right at the door. This intersection is not THE reason this is happening but improving it can surely help because currently it is a total cluster.

    Calming the interaction between automobiles and all other road users from the interstate to the city grid is money well spent.

  • Jeremy

    “installation of new concrete bus pads”

    Does this mean curb extensions that allow the bus to stay in the driving lane, and not pull over? I hope these are effective in helping increase bus travel times. I would like to see these added on other streets.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    No, just putting a rectangle of concrete in the street in place of asphalt to prevent the weight of buses from creating a crater. Pay attention to bus stops and you’ll see that bus pads are really common in Chicago.

  • Anne A

    When this long overdue overhaul is complete, it will be a major safety improvement for this busy intersection. Having a normal intersection instead of the staggered one should make a big difference in reducing crashes and making it easier for everyone to get around.

  • Chicagoan

    Have you been to Chicago?

    I’d like to give you a tour.

  • Michelle Stenzel

    “Bike sidepaths will be constructed along the road between 16th and Roosevelt.”

    What is a bike sidepath?

  • Cameron Puetz

    Bike paths that are separate from the main road. Basically a wide sidewalk. They’re common in the suburbs, but considered a poor choice for urban areas with closely spaced intersections.

  • Cameron Puetz

    The Cermak Green Line station is closer to McCormick Place. This is great for Chinatown though. Currently it can seem so far from the Red Line even though it’s really pretty close.

  • JeBuS

    Not common enough. As a daily rider, I can tell you that the great majority of bus stops don’t have these pads and my teeth clatter constantly.

  • Anne A

    A sidepath isn’t ideal in many urban locations. However, this 3rd phase from 16th to Roosevelt will be within the new development in Rezkoville. I’m assuming that this will be the major access point for this HUGE development and will probably be a car sewer. If it’s placed along a side of the street that has few or no intersections, it may be a lower stress route compared to an on-street lane. I will be curious to see more detail as this development evolves.

  • Anne A
  • Anne A
  • 1976boy

    Chicago is NOT broke. This is a right wing lie. Chicago is an economic beast; it is the 20th largest economy in the world. Chicago can and does pay its bills. If all you want to do is cherry pick facts by looking only at the debt side and not the income side you might fool some people but you would be lying.

    If it makes you feel better about your own bad decisions, and the lame economy in the rural parts of the state, be my guest. But we will call you out.

  • Cameron Puetz

    It really comes down to how the rest of the site is laid out. A sidepath could work if Wentworth is basically a straight shot with no intersections or driveways, or if most intersections are Ts not crossing the path similar to where the Burnham Greenway hugs Indianapolis Ave. The biggest question is how many driveways there will be entering Wentworth.

  • Anne A

    New concrete bus pads continue to be added. I wondered how many thousands there are across the city, and how many still need to be added. This is a years-long project.

  • Chicago60609
  • Chicagoan

    Well, this person comments on Breitbart, so he’s likely a right winger and there’s little right wingers don’t like more than Chicago.

    Wear it as a badge of honor.

  • Chicagoan

    Link don’t work.

  • Chicago60609

    It does – try again ( my first past linked it twice)

  • Anne A

    I’ve read that the developer wants to have the Rock Island train tracks moved westward on the site, further away from Clark St. Depending on how far they move the tracks, it’s possible that the sidepath could be adjacent to the tracks. If that’s the case, there might not be any intersections with the sidepath. Of course, it’s too early to know if that’s how they’ll do it.

  • LazyReader
  • 1976boy

    LOL. A link to a biased, right wing policy document that makes false claims about “fixing” debt which is a thinly disguised attempt at gutting public education.

  • Sometimes they’re “missing” because the bus stop is moved to the other side of the street. When a street is resurfaced, it’s common that new ones get installed, although not always because they are done in different phases (the asphalt is poured and then later a different crew comes to cut out some asphalt and pour in the concrete, but sometimes this part doesn’t happen).

  • JeBuS

    I have to wonder where you guys bike. As a guy who has ridden about 20,000 miles the past 3 years in this city, I can tell you that these pads are the exception, not the norm. If I said that 1% of bus stops had concrete pads, I feel I would be overestimating in order to be conservative.

  • Guy Ross

    Yes, but the red line is the most important as the potential artery for events as attendees usually stay in hotels right on the red in the Mag Mile area and the red is the only way to avoid the transfer at Clark/Lake, which sucks.

    I make this pilgrimage a few times a year and no one is on either the red or green. They are sitting in Taxis backed up for blocks on Indiana and Michigan.

    I was just making the comment to counter those (ahem) who believe that infrastructure only makes sense if it is for white men in suits on their way to work.

    ****if anyone is reading this from Divvy: there need to be more bikes at both the McCormick and the L line station on Cermak

  • Chicagoan

    I knew he’d link to some Conservative junk.

  • JeBuS

    A thousand of them would cover about 5 or 6 of the longest bus streets in the city. When I put it at that scale, does it begin to illustrate what a small drop in the bucket there are in the vast majority of the city as a whole?

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Hey folks, this thread is completely irrelevant to the original post, so let’s drop it — the comments are clogging our inboxes. Further comments on this thread will be deleted. Thanks.

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