The above rendering shows how the Grid Chicago alternative proposal would utilize the right-most northbound lane as a two-way bicycle path. I still recommend a Jersey-style concrete barrier but bollards are used for display purposes so you can better see how the road is used by the path. Rendering by Erich Stenzel.
I’ve biked through the Navy Pier Flyover project area a few more times since proposing an alternative in late June. I’ve crafted a few more ideas, based on discussions here and on The Chainlink. Additionally, Erich Stenzel has created two renderings of the proposal’s match to “Phase 1” (the section of the Lakefront Trail south of the Chicago River north to Illinois Street; there are two other construction phases). Lastly, in reading some of the public meeting and other documents, I’ve learned a few interesting things about the project.
1. The proposal doesn’t necessarily have to compete with all three segments of the Navy Pier Flyover. The proposal is an immediate solution to the issues. This is apparent because there was an immediate and effective solution in 2009 when the Lake Shore Drive Bridge sidewalk that *all* Lakefront Trail users pass over was inaccessible. The converted travel lane over Lake Shore Drive Bridge, through Illinois Street and up to Grand Avenue, could be built in 48 hours with a little asphalt (south of the bridge) metal plates, guardrails, and Jersey barriers.
The segment over the Lake Shore Drive bridge will be bid out in fall 2013 and constructed in 2014, according to one of the documents I received in response to my information request. This leaves enough time for the design to be amended to incorporate this part of the Grid Chicago alternative proposal.
2. The creation of safe, north-south bikeways (protected bike lanes or cycle tracks) near the Lakefront Trail would reduce the demand of the Lakefront Trail, making fantastical designs less necessary. At least one commenter in this discussion has proposed converting non-bike lanes on Columbus Drive to protected bike lanes). I like this idea. I think it’s complementary to my proposal. People who ride north and south on the Lakefront Trail may find safe streets more convenient than riding on the path as it is closer to most destinations.
The second rendering, above, shows the split south of the Chicago River at Lower Lake Shore Drive. Fast-moving trail users would go to the left, onto a converted travel lane on Lower Lake Shore Drive. Slower users would stay on the right, where the Lakefront Trail currently passes. Rendering by Erich Stenzel. Note: The angle of the pavement markings may appear sharp, but here is a bird’s eye view.
Funding agreement documents between the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois show that the city has or plans to spend $4.4 million on design and engineering work; the City estimates the entire project to cost $44.5 million. I predict that the Grid Chicago alternative proposal could be designed and completed for half that amount. Chicago City Council approved four ordinances to allocate funding to the Navy Pier Flyover’s design process (the first in January 2002, the last one in November 2010). The funding for design and engineering work comes from Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality ($3,168,000), State of Illinois match ($792,000), and Chicago “general obligation bonds” ($450,000).
The blueprints I received in response to my Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request show that the viaduct that begins south of Illinois Street (north of the northern bridge house) and ends at Jane Addams Park will partially use the right-most lane on Lake Shore Drive, with additional width cantilevered off the side. I requested the “alternatives analysis” to see which other designs the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) considered. None were remotely similar to the Grid Chicago alternative proposal (see a list of all documents at the end).
It was explained at the first public hearing on October 30, 2011, that the lane is unused and is hashed. From Google Maps’s satellite view, it appears this lane is what most would call the shoulder. CDOT manager Janet Attarian’s presentation* at this meeting indicated the desire to narrow the driving lanes on Lake Shore Drive to get just a little more width for the viaduct (to expand from 14 feet to 16 feet; a member of the public submitted a comment asking that the extra two feet be instead used to move the viaduct two feet further from the Lake Point Tower wall).
There will be a Jersey-style concrete barrier a little over 2 feet tall separating Lake Shore Drive traffic from the Navy Pier Flyover viaduct. On top of this concrete barrier is “parapet railing” also a little over 2 feet tall (the two combined are 4.5 feet tall from the floor of the viaduct). The blueprints I received were of very low quality, omitted a design date, and had difficult to read text. They did not show the design of the fence separating the Navy Pier Flyover from Lake Point Tower. A later rendering shows a fence with a curved or angled top, often seen surrounding prisons and airports.
Many residents of Lake Point Tower attended the October 30, 2001, public meeting, and voiced their concerns with people climbing over the fence into the rooftop garden (atop the parking garage) and breaking into their apartments. One resident suggested terrorists might plant a bomb here.
Photographer Eric Rogers’s caption: Finally, there are bike lanes striped on the sidewalk between Grand & Illinois, recognizing the fact that bicyclists prefer not to go all the way around to Navy Pier.
Janet Attarian expressed a 2003-2004 construction timeline. Since that time the only change that has occurred in the project area is marking a bike lane on the north-south sidewalk between Illinois Street and Grand Avenue in 2009, a reactive move to accommodate the majority of Lakefront Trail users who went on the west side of Lake Point Tower, instead of a long path around the east side of Lake Point Tower near the Navy Pier entrance. (In the presentation, Attarian said that 95% of people used this sidewalk.)
One of the reasons for the delay, according to the response to my FOIA request, was “due to a mayoral request to resolve the issue of the bottleneck on the Chicago River Bridge, as well as the Chicago Spire project, which at the time had great potential for building the DuSable segment of the Navy Pier Flyover”.
In 2009, when part of the sidewalk of Lower Lake Shore Drive over the river collapsed, the city sprung into action building an alternate route on the car lanes of Lower Lake Shore Drive (photo), a step in the right direction and a major part of the Grid Chicago alternative proposal.
- Lakefront Trail existing and proposed plans (no date)
- Funding agreement for design and engineering between IDOT and CDOT
- Renderings and construction phasing (single page)
- Public meeting transcript and official comments and responses (from October 30, 2001)
- Letter from CDOT to SOAR, dated January 19, 2011
- Letter from SOAR to CDOT, dated September 2, 2010
- Task Force meeting minutes from March 13, 2003
- Official IDOT Phase 1 Public Meeting with Court Recorder – 10/30/01
- Task Force Meeting – 3/13/03
- Public Meeting ay Navy Pier – 4/24/03
- Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council Meetings – 12/10/08 & 12/9/09
- SOAR Neighborhood Action Task Force – 5/11/10
- Public Meeting with Alderman Reilly at Navy Pier, Room 328 – 7/15/10
- Plan Commission for Lakefront Protection Ordinance – 2/17/11
- Public Meeting with the Chicago Park District Board – 11/10/11
* I read the presentation in its transcript form.