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Better Streets launches campaign to force LSD planners back to the drawing board

Image: Michelle Stenzel

The battle over whether North Lake Shore Drive should be rebuilt in a way that reenforces the unsustainable, car-centric status quo, or as a transit-priority roadway, is heating up. Last night WTTW's Chicago Tonight show featured a discussion of the Redefine the Drive project, which will rebuild the iconic eight-lane highway between Grand and Hollywood Avenues.

The spot featuring interviews with reps from the Illinois and Chicago departments of transportation, as well as Ward Miller from Preservation Chicago, Juanita Irizarry from Friends of the Parks, UIC transportation expert Kate Lowe, and Kyle Lucas, cofounder of the new sustainable transportation advocacy group Better Streets Chicago. (Streetsblog Chicago assistant editor Courtney Cobbs also helped launch the organization.) While the project's decision-maker are considering five potential configurations, the transportation and parks advocates argued that we need to convert two of the existing lanes to transit-only corridors, without expanding the footprint of the highway or sacrificing existing green space.

You can let IDOT and CDOT know you want the 3 + 1 Bus Only Lane layout by providing input by November 9. Here's how to have your say.

The 3+1 Bus Only option is the most sustainable of the five potential layouts.
The 3+1 Bus Only option is the most sustainable of the five potential layouts.

This morning Better Streets shifted the campaign for a more sustainable LSD into higher gear, calling for residents to join the group on a project team and work together to pressure the planners to go back to the drawing board to create an even more progressive vision for the roadway.

"Right now, the Illinois Department of Transportation is working with the city on future plans for Lake Shore Drive, a project that will have impact for generations to come," Better Streets stated on its website. "We believe that our lakefront plays an important role in many Chicagoans’ daily lives, and it’s imperative to get this right. And we’ll be frank: IDOT is getting it very wrong."

Better Streets notes that LSD is currently a highway through a park, which they argue is a poor use of the shoreline. "IDOT says this 80-year-old infrastructure needs replacing, and they’ve penned this project as 'Redefining the Drive' but what they’re really doing is ensuring this remains a highway for generations to come." The group points out that during the scores of years that the highway has existed, we've learned about the detrimental effects of giant roads on safety, air and water purity, and quality of life, as well as the impact of transportation emissions on climate change.

As such, Better Streets argues, Lake Shore Drive should be reconnected to the street grid in a format that focuses on moving people -- rather than metal boxes -- efficiently across the city. "Picture a boulevard, with protected bike lanes and bus rapid transit, connecting lakefront communities to jobs and to each other in ways they’ve never been connected before. Imagine repurposing highway overpasses to create new trail and recreation opportunities."

A possible new configuration for Lake Shore Drive. Image: Better Streets Chicago
A possible new configuration for Lake Shore Drive. Image: Better Streets Chicago
A possible new configuration for Lake Shore Drive. Image: Better Streets Chicago

"We don’t have to repeat mistakes of the past -- we have the power to design our own future," Better Streets states.

The group is recruiting residents to help out with their campaign through social media; design/photo/video/work, surveys and data collection; and organizing events and meetings with leaders, organizations, and community members.

Visit the Better Streets Chicago website to get involved.

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