Eyes on the street: Raised bike lanes are taking shape on Wells-Wentworth Connector
For the past four years, the city of Chicago has constructing the Wells-Wentworth Connector, a new road to link Chinatown with the upcoming The 78 megadevelopment and the South Loop. As outlined in this September 2019 Streetsblog article, the construction of the project has already included straightening the previously skewed, high-crash intersection of Cermak and Wentworth avenues, and adding a new crosswalk and plaza. However, it’s still a huge multilane junction that’s dangerous for pedestrians, and the project actually widened Wentworth north of Cermak.
The 78 is being constructed on 62 acres of vacant land bounded by the Chicago River, Roosevelt Road, Clark Street, and 15th Street. According to the Chicago Department of Transportation, the new three-lane street will include new mixed-traffic, turn, and parking lanes, as well as bike lanes raised above the street level.
The latter are common in truly bike-friendly cities, but are almost non-existent in Chicago, except for a short stretch of Roosevelt Road between the Roosevelt ‘L’ stop and Grant Park, completed in 2015. And in November the Chicago Department of Transportation broke ground on a new streetscape project that will include raised bike lanes, on Commercial Avenue between 83th and 93rd streets in the South Chicago neighborhood on the Southeast Side.
According to a project webpage for the Wells-Wentworth Connector, the new road “will allow for improved traffic flow throughout both [The 78] by creating a coordinated series of intersections, as well as provide or improve pedestrian connectivity within the [megadevelopment] and to nearby destinations such as the new Ping Tom Park fieldhouse, the… Chinatown Library, the existing commercial areas, and transit stops.”
“Chinatown is home to many small and family-owned businesses and the Wells-Wentworth Connector will open up those companies to access visitors from other neighborhoods and bring additional business growth to our community,” said Emma Yu, executive director of the Chinatown Chamber of Commerce in a statement.
CDOT spokesperson Erica Schroeder told Streetsblog the northern portion of the new street, which is currently fenced off, is slated to open for use by this summer, if not earlier. “The raised bike lanes are protected on both sides by a landscaped parkway that will provide physical separation between vehicle traffic and pedestrians,” she said, adding that the new bikeways would be low-stress and comfortable for bike riders of all confidence levels.
The new street will also feature raised crosswalks that will make it safer for people on foot and bikes to cross it while accessing Ping Tom Park and other nearby destinations, Schroder said.
If you want to get a view of the bike lanes under construction, you can take a peek at them through the chainlink fence on Wentworth north of 18th Street. Or else go stand on the south sidewalk of Roosevelt west of Clark, across the street from the Roosevelt Collection shopping mall, and look south down at the project.
As you can see in the photo at the top of this post, annoyingly, sign poles have been installed within the raised bike lane area. However, after bike advocates pointed this out on Twitter last month, Michael Ellch, a senior vice president with Related Midwest, The 78’s developer, promised that this oversight will be fixed.
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