Skip to Content
Streetsblog Chicago home
Streetsblog Chicago home
Log In
Road Expansion

No dice! Transportation advocates push back against plans for widening Chicago Avenue at future Bally’s Casino site

ATA and other advocates criticized plans to improve bus and bike access as half-measures, while saying a wider Chicago Avenue bridge would induce driving without helping sustainable modes.

Rendering from last night’s meeting. Photo: Igor Studenkov

This post is sponsored by The Bike Lane.

Bus and bike boosters are up in arms about the Chicago Department of Transportation's plans for widening Chicago Avenue at Halsted Street, the future site of Bally's Casino. The proposal was discussed at the meeting on CDOT's Chicago Avenue River Bridge and Chicago Avenue / Halsted Street Viaduct project, last night at Eckhart Park fieldhouse, 1330 W. Chicago Ave.

Overhead view of the current layout of Chicago/Halsted. Image: Google Maps

Back in 2018, the City of Chicago removed the existing 1914 movable bridge and installed the current bridge as a temporary structure until a more permanent bridge could be built. Chicago Avenue has traditionally been a major corridor, and the CTA's 66 Chicago route is one of the city's busiest bus lines. After the temporary bridge was put in, the City agreed to allow Bally's Corporation to build Chicago's first legal casino at the former site of the Tribune Publishing printing plant. The gambling facility is expected to further add to the traffic volume in the area.

Last night's meeting presented plans not only for the Chicago Avenue bridge, but for the Halsted Street viaduct immediately north of Chicago Avenue. The plan calls for a wider, four-lane bridge (up from the temporary bridge's three lanes) with access to the riverwalk, and turning Chicago Avenue's westbound lane into a right-turn / bus lane just east of Halsted. On Halsted, CDOT plans to add bike lanes and put in a northbound bus lane south of Chicago Avenue.

The current three-lane Chicago Avenue bridge, looking east. Image: Google Maps

Near the end of the meeting comments from attendees suggested that many residents feel the proposed transit improvements are, at best, half-measures, especially given the residential development planned for the area.

According to the CDOT handout, the project is currently in design phase, but it has a pretty aggressive timeline. The City hopes to complete engineering by the end of spring 2024, with the goal of starting construction this summer and completing it by the end of 2026.

The Chicago/Halsted intersection is tricky because both streets are raised. Halsted crosses over the freight-only Union Pacific Railroad tracks that historically served businesses along the west shore of the Chicago River, including the aforementioned Tribune plant. According to CDOT, the Halsted Street viaduct is over 50 years old and is overdue for a rehab.

.According to the meeting materials, the new Chicago Avenue bridge will have four lanes, with two in each direction. The structure will be a tied arch bridge that can be raised using a jacking system (think a more modern version of the Canal Street railroad bridge). The plan also mentions a "Riverwalk connection," which would make it easier to reach the casino on foot. Right now, there is no way to get from Chicago Avenue down to river level. The plan describes the bridge's wider dimensions as a way to "increase roadway capacity over the river."

The proposal doesn't call for any bus lanes on the bridge. But west of the bridge, Chicago Avenue widens to six lanes, and the plan calls for making the northernmost westbound lane a right turn / bus lane – in other words, drivers will only be able to use it if they're turning north on Halsted. It also mentions a bus queue jump, which will let westbound buses get around traffic. Much of Chicago Avenue east of the bridge already has (rarely enforced) bus lanes in both directions.

A driver blocks the Chicago Avenue bus lane near Clark Street. Photo: CDOT

For Halsted, the plan calls for raised bike lanes on both sides of the street between Chicago Avenue and roughly where Ancona Street (630 N.) would be, while putting in a partial southbound bike lane and a northbound bike lane along the sidewalk north of the intersection. It also calls for putting in a northbound bus lane south of the intersection, roughly between Ancona and Huron streets. This would leave four lanes, two in each direction, available for drivers. The renderings suggest that the concrete median south of the intersection will be removed. 

Several residents argued that putting in just one bus lane was a half-measure, especially on Halsted Street. There were also some concerns about whether the bus lanes would be enforced. Camera enforcement of bus lanes is not currently legal in Illinois, and state legislation would be needed to allow it.

After the meeting, the Active Transportation Alliance and several transit advocates echoed those concerns, while also raising concern about how a wider bridge would impact traffic without helping the buses. 

donate button

Did you appreciate this post? Please consider making a tax-deductible donation.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog Chicago

FOIAed letter shows Ald. Hopkins asked CDOT to scrape out dashed bike lanes from Dearborn in posh Gold Coast

The alder says constituents in this affluent neighborhood feel the new street layout is "very problematic and unsafe", but the same configuration has worked fine in other communities.

July 13, 2024

CTAction: It’s silly for CTA to update timetables to reflect “more scheduled rail service” when it can’t deliver its current schedule

The grassroots transit advocacy group says there's no point in advertising more service on the new timetables when the CTA isn't actually providing it.

July 11, 2024

Transit advocates voiced support for 9 Ashland bus extension, transportation committee approved it

A full City Council vote is needed to finalize the project, and the next Council meeting is next Wednesday, July 17.

July 11, 2024
See all posts