Lake Shore Drive is perhaps Chicago’s most iconic roadway, and it’s certainly among the busiest.
The Illinois Department of Transportation, the Chicago Department of Transportation and Chicago Park District are in the midst of a yearslong project, studying different ways to improve North Lake Shore Drive and the lakefront and neighborhood areas around it for drivers, transit riders, cyclists and pedestrians.
At a meeting this month, the project team discussed the potential of creating a dedicated transit lane on the drive – for buses only.
“We think if a transit way were added to the roadway it would get even more people riding transit, so reduce the number of cars on the drive and move people more efficiently and effectively,” said Kyle Whitehead, managing director of public affairs at the Active Transportation Alliance. “This transit way potentially could be upgraded to light rail service at some point in the future were those resources available, which is another advantage of this design.”
The project team will continue to analyze how best to create a dedicated transit lane. Options include widening the roadway and converting an existing lane into one meant for buses only. Both options could create a stir, but a transit lane is among the key priorities for the ATA and a group of nine other civic and policy organizations that earlier this year sent a letter urging the project team to “(prioritize) moving people rather than cars.”
“We’re not designing Lake Shore Drive for next year, we’re designing it for 30, 40, 50 years from now,” Whitehead said. “As more people want to ride transit and bike and walk, we think there’s real potential in adding a transit way to support economic growth and further attract businesses choosing to locate downtown because of the access to public transit and the access to safe and convenient biking and walking routes.”
Among other ideas, the North Lake Shore Drive project has also examined straightening out the “S” curve near Oak Street Beach and removing the Chicago Avenue stoplight.
The ambitious ideas for revamping the drive have the potential to make a big impact on the city’s future, but they’re far from a done deal. The final designs and project funding are still years away.
Whitehead joins Chicago Tonight for a conversation, along with Erin Aleman, director of planning and programming at the Illinois Department of Transportation.