Eyes on the street: Railroad tracks in intersection being removed


Crossing railroad tracks while bicycling is more than a bumpy annoyance. It can also cause a crash. The abandoned railroad track is finally being removed this month from the intersection of Division Street and Halsted Street. This is likely part of the larger project that removed the Kingsbury Street railroad track from Division Street to North Avenue this summer.


Also new at this intersection is a new street name sign. It uses a different typeface, with larger text, but forgoes the grid numbering system (it would have “800 W” written on the sign).


What the intersection looked like earlier this year in March.

33 thoughts on “Eyes on the street: Railroad tracks in intersection being removed”

  1. i’m so happy about this! last year when it was raining my bike tires slipped sideways on the tracks and i went head over handle bars getting some nice cuts and bruises from it.

  2. The change to the street name sign interests me the most. Large agencies tend to be adverse to changes, simply from a maintenance standpoint (they like to order dozens of signs to have on hand if one is broken); so this change is perplexing. I wonder if (a) This is a temporary sign while they obtain the “normal Chicago standard”; (b) a supplemental plaque with the address will be added later; (c) this is the beginning of a shift in philosophy on street name signs. My interpretation of the MUTCD guidelines not does specifically prohibit the additional information CDOT provides.

    I believe the address information on street name signs is extremely helpful, and makes navigation in Chicago that much easier. I recently took a trip to Spokane and noticed that they also placed street addresses on street name signs, but they have the exact opposite philosophy. For instance if you are traveling westbound on Belmont you see the street signs as N Broadway St (600 W), N Halstead St (800 W), N Sheffield Ave (1000 W), and N Racine Ave (1200 W). However, if you apply the Spokane philosophy, you would see the signs as N Broadway St (3200 N), N Halstead St (3200 N), N Sheffield Ave (3200 N), and N Racine Ave (3200 N). As you can see (and we probably all already know) they “Chicago way” benefits travelers by providing relevant information as you go along the street. Conversely, the “Spokane” way provides you no additional information as you travel, forcing you to take your eyes of the road to look left and right for addresses. My trip to Spokane only further enforced how simple, informative, and surprisingly safe the “Chicago way” is; I would be rather upset if CDOT decided to ditch the addresses altogether.

    1. Totally agree with this. I thought the same thing when I saw the picture. I really hope this isn’t part of a larger change.

    2. The signs all along Halsted (up to North, from Division) are now in Helvetica without using all upper-case lettering. It’s quite different and is difficult to read at a distance. But again, CDOT is being run by children right now. Let’s let them have their toys for the time being.

      1. True, the all caps signs will need to be replaced (per new MUTCD guidelines), but that is separate from the issue of the inclusion of the address data.

  3. Too bad the tracks weren’t used for public transit. The lack of foresight here for a west Lakeview/Lincoln park/old town/Union Station is status quo for CDOT

      1. Yep, used to be trackage all the way to CUS. In-street running could have been done down Division to either Crosby or Orleans. Instead, we have scores of buses for those unfortunate workers in the area of Chicago/Larabee who are too afraid to walk to the L or take a city bus.

        Read up on the former Milwaukee Road’s freight business in the area.

        1. No, there wasn’t. The only crossing of the river those tracks had was to Goose Island and up at the north end by Bloomingdale. The next rail bridge south of there is the one to the Aparrel Center/Merchandise Mart/Carroll Street. Those tracks did not connect to Kingsbury.

  4. I suggested Kinsgbury as a neighborhood greenway as part of the Streets for Cycling Plan. One way to do this would be an actuated bike-only signal phase to cross diagonally from the SE corner to the NW corner on Kingsbury.

      1. I like this question. I think there are two further questions: (1) What counts as a neighborhood? There are residences within one block of Kingsbury starting one block north of Division all the way to North Avenue. Does a cluster of businesses and retail count as a neighborhood?
        (2) Is a neighborhood greenway a “facility type” that entails specific and consistent treatments, or is it a designation of a route that’s been optimized to facilitate bicycle traffic (or something else)?

        1. Maybe they should just be called Bike Boulevards instead of Neighborhood Greenways. It removes the ambiguity of what counts as a neighborhood and whether or not there is any greenery. Plus, it’s more descriptive, having the word “bike” in the name.

          1. I think one reason they’re called NGs is that the treatments included in such a project won’t be all about bikes, but will be generic traffic calming changes that impact all modes.

  5. Very happy about this. My husband shattered his foot on a train track near there. Not to be too dramatic, but he will have pain and either issues with it for the rest of his life.

  6. I’ve noticed a lot of street signs on Halsted on and near Goose Island have this odd font that is inconsistent with the rest of the city. This has always bothered me more than it should.

          1. It looks very similar, but with subtle differences. I wonder why CDOT would not use the standard typeface and design that is used for the rest of the city?

          2. The new typeface (Clearview) is the new standard for 2009 MUTCD (the link you provide above Steven Vance no longer applies). Eventually all signs in the city will have to updated to this new standard. (More importantly new signs have higher standards for retroreflectivity.)

            The newly updated compliance dates for 2009 MUTCD (http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2012-05-14/pdf/2012-11710.pdf) indicate that “Types of signs other than regulatory or warning are to be added to an agency’s management or assessment method as resources allow”. This means CDOT should be replacing signs at a reasonable rate either (a) as a part of a sign management program or (b) as the signs are broken/traffic signal equipment is upgraded/or other improvements require replacement.

          3. So does that mean that the city will have to remove the address information from the street signs? Also, I’d love to find a place to purchase old street signs after they are no longer needed.

          4. Not necessarily. I have not read anything that would specifically prohibit the use of the additional address data on the street name sign (and, at least anecdotal, evidence shows that the information is extremely useful to travelers, and not distracting). Note, however that there isn’t specific guidance on how it should be done either.

          5. There is always a steady supply of old street signs on Ebay, though they aren’t necessarily cheap.

  7. Steven,
    Why do these abandoned tracks exist in numerous places in the city? Are they still railroad property and the railroads have no incentive to clean it up/tear it out? Or is is public/city property and the city hasn’t gotten around to improving the road surface?
    Just curious.

      1. you forget that railroads operate as common carriers under federal authority; abandoning a right-of-way is not a thing that happens quickly, even when they really want to.

  8. They’ve also covered up some diagonal train tracks on16th St between Central and Laramie in Cicero. January before last, those things caused me to crack my kneecaps. I’m glad to see them smoothed out…

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