What does the city’s new Fulton Market plan propose in terms of transportation?

Image: City of Chicago
Image: City of Chicago

As reported by Block Club Chicago’s Jay Koziarz, the city of Chicago is updating its 2014 plan for Fulton Market in the wake of the departure of many industrial land uses from the West Loop in recent years, and simultaneous boom in housing and office development in conjunction with burgeoning tech and hospitality businesses in the neighborhood. The Fulton Market Innovation District Update plan (currently available as a draft) covers the area bounded by Hubbard, Halsted, and Randolph streets, plus Ogden avenue, a roughly 217-acre zone.

On Thursday, January 21, at 6 p.m., reps from the Chicago Department of Planning and Development and 27th Ward alderman Walter Burnett will discuss the plan in an online community meeting — register here. Residents can also submit comments and questions in advance. This community input will inform the next version of the plan, which will be submitted to the Chicago Plan Commission, possibly later this winter.

As Block Club noted, the document calls for lifting the current moratorium on residential developments north of Lake Street, something Burnett supports. The goal is for 30 percent of the new housing units north of Lake to be affordable, which could happen in conjunction with an upcoming rewrite of Chicago’s affordable housing rules, likely taking place later in 2021.

Let’s take a deeper dive into what the new plan has to say about transportation in the Fulton Market District. It states that developers of building north of Lake Street will “be required to incorporate public way improvements to provide a high-quality pedestrian experience and to improve connectivity within the area, adding that “alternative modes of transportation will be prioritized” to help reduce new demand for parking.

The plan includes an inventory of some of the district’s existing sustainable transportation assets, including four Divvy stations, at the Morgan Green/Pink line station; Elizabeth Street and Fulton Market; Randolph and Racine Avenue; and Randolph and Aberdeen Street. The Fulton Market Flex Street is a sometimes-pedestrianized stretch between Halsted and Carpenter and Peoria streets, which will be extended west to Ogden this year.

The Fulton Flex Street. Photo: John Greenfield
The Fulton Flex Street. Photo: John Greenfield

Lake Street is also getting rebuilt from Ashland Avenue to Halsted this year, including ADA improvements, raised crosswalks, and “forward compatible” bikeway markings. Construction is slated to start this spring.

Short term transportation priorities for the Fulton Market identified in the plan include

  • 6 at-grade Metra crossing improvements
  • Install 23 blocks of missing sidewalks
  • 43 crosswalk upgrades
  • 32 ADA corner upgrades
  • 82 light poles replace/upgrade
  • Add Divvy stations

Longer-term priorities include:

  • Bury utilities
  • Viaduct improvements
  • Select new bike lanes (requires additional study by the Chicago Department of Transportation)
  • Select street network and section improvements (requires additional study by CDOT)

In the section of the plan titled “Improve Multi-Modal Transit Options,” the document notes that many local stakeholders are concerned about traffic congestion, especially on Lake Street during rush hours. (Gee, if only there was some way to travel along Lake without having to deal with traffic jams.)

The plan voices optimism that, thanks to good ‘L’, bus, and bike route access, most new residents would commute to work on foot, transit, or bike. According to CMAP data from 2019, about 57 of people who live in the district currently do so.

Rendering of the existing buffered bike lanes on Hubbard upgraded with green paint.
Rendering of the existing buffered bike lanes on Hubbard upgraded with green paint.

CDOT says there’s a need to upgrade the bike lanes on Hubbard in the West Loop. Options shown in the plan include simply coloring in the existing buffered lanes with green paint, as well as the arguably lower-stress alternative of a two-way protected bike lane on the south side of the street. Either way, Hubbard could also get a new “linear park” treatment, including “a wider green landscaped open space, a safely lit pedestrian pathway… improved viaducts” and additional public art. The Union Pacific Railroad embankment is already covered with murals.

Rendering of a two-way protected bike lane on the north side of Hubbard.
Rendering of a two-way protected bike lane on the south side of Hubbard.

CDOT also wants to fill in missing gaps in the bike routes Halsted and Ogden. In addition, the department proposes creating new bikeways on Randolph and Racine.

CDOT has hired a consultant to looked at the feasibility of developer Sterling Bay’s proposal for a new Metra station at the old Fulton Wheat Mill site, 1300 W. Carrol St., and potential funding sources for the stop. This is expected to encourage the development of new transit-oriented development in the area, including more office buildings, and housing that would be appealing to people who work in the suburbs but want to live in the city. “The construction and timing of a new Metra in-fill station is dependent on Metra’s A-2 interlocking bottleneck improvement project [including, hopefully, a new flyover] in this corridor,” the plan notes.

The plan proposes rerouting Washington and Warren boulevards so they don't disrupt Union Park. Image: Google Maps
The plan proposes rerouting Washington and Warren boulevards so they don’t disrupt Union Park. Image: Google Maps

Here’s one more interesting tidbit from the plan. The document calls for possibly re-routing Washington and Warren boulevards so they don’t bisect Union Park, located west of the Fulton Market District, which could create more green space.

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