Pier pressure: is there an alternative to the $45 million Navy Pier Flyover?


Congestion on the Lakefront Trail at the Lake Shore Drive south bridge house leads to frustrating experiences, especially for those on wheels. 

The section of the Lakefront Trail between Randolph Street and Ohio Street Beach cannot comfortably handle the traffic present in the many congested areas around the Lake Shore Drive bridge, Navy Pier, and Jane Addams Memorial Park. The narrow width, awkward curves, and blind spots make for highly dissatisfied trail users, that includes the gamut of Chicagoans and visitors, using Segways, four-wheel pedal cars, skates, strollers, bicycles, wheelchairs, or their own feet. There’s not enough room for the number of people who pass through here. This section of the trail is used by individuals on work and social trips, as well as groups meandering from park to park along Lake Michigan. The City plans to build an elevated structure, called the Navy Pier Flyover, to bypass the congestion, but at an extreme cost. We propose a different project to meet the same goals of comfortable passage on the path with a much smaller price tag.

The main problem areas are at the north and south ends of the Lake Shore Drive bridge, on the sidewalk between the bridge and Grand Avenue, at the blind spot where the trail meets Grand at the corner of Lakepoint Tower’s parking garage, and in the congested area inside Jane Addams Memorial Park and Ohio Street Beach. The Navy Pier Flyover is a planned structure on the Lakefront Trail that will “fly over” these trouble spots. The Lakefront Trail path as it currently exists will remain open for those who don’t want to use the flyover. Additionally, an “off ramp” will be built from the overpass to Navy Pier alongside the Ogden Slip – this part is superfluous to addressing path congestion, but may be useful for some path users. The project does not sufficiently address congestion at Ohio Street Beach.

The Navy Pier Flyover is going to cost a jaw-dropping $45 million. To put this in perspective, in 2008 the Portland, Oregon, Bureau of Transportation estimated the entire replacement cost of its then 300-mile bike network at about $60 million. We propose an alternative solution to combat the same problems at a much lower cost, and with a far quicker construction time.

Continue reading Pier pressure: is there an alternative to the $45 million Navy Pier Flyover?

Bike sharing delays, bike lane designs, and other highlights from Wednesday’s MBAC meeting


CDOT staffer Mike Amsden describes the city’s commitment to bicycling in a presentation about the progress of the Streets for Cycling Plan 2020. 

Yesterday’s Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council (MBAC) meeting was the first in a new format we reported on back in December. There was a meeting in March, but its schedule wasn’t announced. The new format resembles the original format in 1992, when Mayor Daley started MBAC, with formally defined membership. It’s now modeled on the Mayor’s Pedestrian Advisory Council, according to Luann Hamilton, deputy commissioner of project development at the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT). She expounded:

We’ve added so many issues. When we started, biking in Chicago wasn’t a health issue, it was a recreation issue. Once it was linked to health, it brought in a whole new group of people that needed to be connected. Bring more voices, more diversity. Modeled after our MPAC which was formed in 2006 (also has technical and stakeholders committees). Some represent agencies, others are advocates, community members, all who want to make streets safer and usable by all travelers.

The council can be active again, vote, carry motion, write a letter. I think we were instrumental in creating changes, like at CTA and Metra [getting them to allow bicycles on buses and trains]. I think this Council can have a powerful voice. All the folks who have come over the years can still come and make presentations.

The first hour is for members to speak and present. The remaining half hour is for public comments and discussion. Hamilton answered affirmatively to Active Transportation Alliance executive director Ron Burke’s question about whether or not she anticipates the council being able to make recommendations. Continue reading Bike sharing delays, bike lane designs, and other highlights from Wednesday’s MBAC meeting

Federal government update: Clean air legislation and surface transportation bill


“rot” may be the new state of transit if the House of Representatives passes two transportation bills that affect the entire nation. Photo by Eric Rogers. 

This is a quick update on two federal government topics I’ve been following: the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was proposing to make the Chicago region an “attainment zone”, meaning we’d meet our pollution reduction goals (for just particulate matter) and that we would lose our eligibility for Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality funds (CMAQ) – see the original post. But those funds may not be so protected, if the House Republicans have their say and are able to pass H.R.3864, the new surface transportation bill – see the original post. Continue reading Federal government update: Clean air legislation and surface transportation bill

House of Representatives transportation bill fraught with bad ideas


Funding for trails? Forget it, say House Republicans. Photo by Eric Rogers.

Updated 15:36: See additions to this article under “updates”

No matter how you get around, whether on foot, by bike, in a car, on a bus or by train or water taxi, the federal surface transportation bill impacts your travel.

The surface transportation bill does essentially two things:

1. It sets national transportation policy. This includes plans on how much to subsidize monthly car parking for workers, monthly transit passes (see note 1); regional planning; safety goals; and environmental protection from vehicle pollution and infrastructure impacts.

2. Defines which transportation modes and programs get how much money.

A majority of trains, buses, bike lanes, roads, and highways in Chicagoland were built with funding from the surface transportation bill. And they continue to be majority-funded by federal tax dollars, year after year.

The last surface transportation bill is called SAFETEA-LU and it expired on September 30, 2009, at the end of fiscal year 2009 – Transportation 4 America has a clock counting the time since expiration. Since then, it has been extended many times while Congressional committees and representatives work on a new one.

A new one may be enacted this year!

Continue reading House of Representatives transportation bill fraught with bad ideas

Air quality attainment update from CMAP


The Millennium Park Bike Station is one of thousands of projects funded in part by Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality grants. 

From the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning newsletter:

As we told you last week [here’s our article], our region faces harm to its air quality and a significant loss of federal transportation funding if the U.S. EPA follows through on its intention to ignore current, certified 2011 data and rule that northeastern Illinois is “in attainment” with the agency’s 2008 guidelines for air quality. Among the many Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) projects that would lose funding is Pace’s $38.4 million express bus service along the Jane Addams Tollway as part of its upcoming reconstruction, which is identified as a high priority of GO TO 2040. We urge you to contact U.S. EPA and members of Congress, calling on the federal regulators to consider the up-to-date 2011 data, which clearly indicate our region has actually not attained the 2008 air standards. The U.S. EPA comment period has begun with publication of a December 20 notice in the Federal Register (marked as “40 CFR Part 81”), which includes details of how to make your views known. We have also created a sample letter for commenters.

Continue reading Air quality attainment update from CMAP

Grid Bits: UP-North construction to restart, taxi drivers and street safety, new CTA Loop station

John and I are still gathering information for our Open Streets article, which will be co-written and published Tuesday. Also on Tuesday is another public meeting about the Bloomingdale Trail, where the designers and consultants will showcase the results of this past weekend’s open house and charrettes (I went on Saturday). I will publish an article about the Tuesday presentation on Thursday, October 6. There are five stories in this edition of Grid Bits.


(1) Taxi drivers


Click on the photo to read the photographer’s caption. I found this by searching on Flickr for “stupid taxi chicago” in order to find people’s opinions. Photo by Nick Normal. 

The Chicago Tribune reported on September 23, 2011, that many of the tickets Chicago police give to taxi drivers are dismissed in court. When a taxi driver receives commits three moving violations in one year, they risk having their chauffeur’s license not renewed. Continue reading Grid Bits: UP-North construction to restart, taxi drivers and street safety, new CTA Loop station