Skip to Content
Streetsblog Chicago home
Streetsblog Chicago home
Log In
Chicago Mobilty Collaborative

Recent Chicago Mobility Collaborative meeting took place in, discussed transportation issues in, Chinatown

CDOT and Ald. Nicole Lee talked about transportation projects in the 11th Ward, but we didn't get an answer as to when the Wells-Wentworth Connector will finally open.

Walking south across Cermak Road at Wentworth Avenue using a crosswalk that was marked after a jog in Wentworth was recently straightened. Photo: John Greenfield

This post is sponsored by Ride Illinois.

The Chicago Department of Transportation's quarterly Chicago Mobility Collective meeting was held last Thursday at the Pui Tak Center, a church-based community center located at 2216 S. Wentworth Ave. in Chinatown. The sessions are intended as a chance to discuss local sustainable transportation and mobility justice issues. In addition to a sign language interpreter, all the presenters were accompanied by two screens showing Chinese and Spanish translations of their remarks.

"Since taking office, one of the main things, one of the main complaints, I’ve heard from constituents is that they want traffic calmed," said Ald. Nicole Lee  (11th). "That [drivers] are out of control, stop signs are a mere suggestion. Traffic lights? Meh. You know. We can go through all those too. It happens everyday in front of my office. I literally went for a walk yesterday morning, and almost saw my pharmacist get hit by a [motorist]." 

Ald. Lee. Photo: Cameron Bolton

"She was crossing 23rd Street," Lee explained. "There were drop-offs going on at the school. And she came out, she inched out really hesitantly, and she looked. And the way was clear, so she started to walk out into the intersection and a car had pulled behind the car that was stopped and literally almost hit her. I yelled. 'Whoa!' And she heard me, and she saw me, and she said, ‘You know, I walk every single day and our neighborhood has just gotten so dangerous.’"

As such, Lee said she’s been very committed to getting input from constituents about traffic safety issues, as well as working with CDOT to create safer streets. The most recent traffic safety project is on 35th Street, the longest road segment within the 11th Ward. Lee added that she wants to create safer routes to and from key locations such as the lakefront, Soldier Field, and Sox Park, the latter of which is located on the east side of her district.

The 11th Ward boundaries as of 2023. Image: City of Chicago

Next, CDOT Community Planner Romina Castillo got up to share updates CDOT sustainable transportation projects. For example, she noted that the department plans to have 450 Divvy bike-share stations installed by 2025.

"The Smart Streets Pilots Ordinance will launch this summer and this is a pilot program focusing on improving safety and optimizing bus lanes and traffic flow," Castillo said. This initiative will launch two small-scale pilots downtown to improve ticketing of vehicles illegally parked in bikeways, bus lanes, bus stops, and crosswalks, and allow for camera enforcement for parking in commercial loading zones.

Romina Castillo. Photo: Cameron Bolton

"It's important to note that warning notices without fines will be issued for the first 30 days after each new camera is installed and activated, Castillo said. "That will provide a grace period for people as they notice and learn more about this pilot."

"We also have the school safety improvement program," Castillo added. "We currently have eight schools. They are [getting] multiple safety upgrades, including curb bump-outs, raised crosswalks, refuge islands, and... reduced the speed limits."

After that, Beatrix Yan, a Planner with the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, talked about a new initiative in Chinatown that’s building off of two previous plans. Back in 2015, there was a community vision plan for how residents wanted Chinatown to look in five to ten years. There was another plan in 2018 called "Park on Site," which looked at parking and traffic issues within the neighborhood.

Beatrix Yan: Photo: Cameron Bolton

"We're prioritizing recommendations from both of those plans from the financing plan and the 2015 plan to try to actually implement those recommendations," Yan added. "A lot of recommendations that are found in these types of plans, it's difficult to implement them because of this lack of funding, a lack of staffing. It's hard to create those bridges with organizations who could implement them. So this is our role now with CMAP to implement those recommendations. This is a 16 month project and we're set to wrap up this upcoming September."

Next, attendees broke off into separate groups to have individual discussions. Table 4 continued the talk about transit in Chinatown, discussing the Canal Street Viaduct Rehabilitation plan. However, during the conversation, one of the people in Group 4 said that he thought there was something to be said for doing a minimum level repair on all viaducts instead of just a “Capital 'P' Project.”

Emma Jasinski, Community Designer at Design Trust Chicago, presenting at Table 4. Photo: Cameron Bolton

Ald. Lee sat in at Table 4 and said the Canal situation is complex. Different entities, like a railroad, are responsible for the upkeep of different parts of the viaduct. She added that while all the wards get $1.5 million in discretionary "menu" funds to spend on infrastructure each year, that system is not exactly fair because some districts have more square milage to cover than others.

"We have to talk about geographic equity, with how much money each ward is allocated to make improvements," Ald. Lee said. "And CDOT has their Capital Improvement Plan every year. That's a little bit more of a level playing field because they are really just taking a look across the city to [see what needs to be] repaired the most. So there isn't dedicated funding... Right now we have to choose between putting in a new alley over here, or putting in lights in [another location]. And it's a terrible position. It just is."

As has previously been detailed on Streetsblog, the Wells-Wentworth Connector will be a new road with raised bike lanes linking Chinatown with the upcoming The 78 megadevelopment and the South Loop. For roughly the past year, the road and bikeways have been ready to ride, but still barricaded.

Last August, then-outgoing CDOT Commissioner Gia Biagi told Streetsblog, "[The Wentworth Connector is] in punch list right now, so we're looking at probably September. I know that folks are eager. We're eager to get to open that up. But it's a construction site, and while things sometimes look done, they're not quite there yet."

Last week's CMC meeting took place about six month after September. But after the presentations Castillo told Streetsblog the department still doesn’t have an idea when the Wells-Wentworth Connector will be finished. She said to be sure to stay tuned for further updates.

The next CMC meeting will take place on Thursday, June 13, from 6 to 7:30 p.m., at a location to be determined. Look for minutes and a video of the Chinatown event on the CDOT website in the near future.

donate button

Did you appreciate this post? Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to help Streetsblog Chicago keep publishing through 2025. Thank you.

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