Good Bridge, Bad Bridge: two very different CDOT projects

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Sidewalk / multi-use path on the south side of Fullerton prior to the bridge rehab. Photo by Michelle Stenzel.

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After the rehab: bike and ped access on the south side has been eliminated to make room for a dedicated right-turn lane for cars entering southbound Lake Shore Drive.

[This piece also appeared in Checkerboard City, John’s weekly transportation column in Newcity magazine, which hits the streets on Wednesday evenings.]

I recently attended events related to two different Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) bridge projects. One of these spans will be a terrific addition to the city’s sustainable transportation infrastructure. The other one, not so much.

First the good news. CDOT’s Addison Underbridge Connector project will link up existing snippets of bike path along the Chicago River to create a nearly two-mile, car-free route from Belmont Street to Montrose Avenue. This new path segment will be elevated some sixteen feet above the river on piers.

Continue reading Good Bridge, Bad Bridge: two very different CDOT projects

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Pavement to the people: an update on CDOT’s new public space initiatives

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The People Spot at Little Black Pearl art center in Bronzeville. Photo courtesy of CDOT.

[This piece also appeared in Checkerboard City, John’s weekly transportation column in Newcity magazine, which hits the streets in print on Thursdays.]

Local pundits like ex-Sun-Times columnist Mark Konkol and the Tribune’s John McCarron and John Kass have trashed the city’s new protected bike lanes as a waste of space on the streets. But Chicagoans tend to overlook the massive amount of room on the public way given over to moving and parking private automobiles.

A new Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) initiative called Make Way for People is dreaming up more imaginative uses of the city’s asphalt and concrete, creating new public spaces that are energizing business strips. In partnership with local community leaders, the program is taking parking spots, roadways, alleys and under-used plazas and transforming them into People Spots, People Streets, People Alleys and People Plazas, respectively, lively neighborhood hangouts.

“It’s not a top-down program where we come in and say, ‘We think you need a People Spot or a People Street,’” says Janet Attarian, head of the department’s Streetscape and Sustainable Design section. “Instead we say, ‘We want to help you build community and culture and place and, look, we just created a whole set of tools that wasn’t available before.’”

Continue reading Pavement to the people: an update on CDOT’s new public space initiatives

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Navy Pier Flyover alternative design followup: New renderings and ideas

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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.

Modified ideas

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. Continue reading Navy Pier Flyover alternative design followup: New renderings and ideas

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Gimme shelter: pedestrian improvements to Congress Parkway

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New crosswalk with pedestrian refuge island at Congress and Dearborn.

[This piece also appeared in Checkerboard City, John’s weekly transportation column in Newcity magazine, which hits the streets in print on Wednesday evenings.]

Folks who walked to the Printers Row Lit Fest last weekend were a little less likely be killed by cars than in previous years. The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) is currently wrapping up the $18 million Congress Parkway Reconstruction Project, from Wells Street to Michigan Avenue. The rehab has already brought a slew of pedestrian safety improvements, including new pedestrian refuge islands, making it safer, easier and more pleasant to walk across and along the massive street that forms the southern boundary of the Loop.

Construction on Congress began in October 2010 and the road reopened to traffic on May 15, just in time for the NATO summit. CDOT expects the final tasks, including finishing planter medians and installing decorative trellises and lighting, will be done by June 30.

Congress has long been an iconic Chicago street, but it has also been a major barrier to foot traffic. Originally called Tyler Street after tenth U.S. President John Tyler, the name was changed to honor the U.S. Congress after Tyler became unpopular because he joined the Confederacy during the Civil War. The road originates as a freeway at the Circle Interchange, the junction of the Dan Ryan, Eisenhower and Kennedy Expressways, and then continues east to become an eight-lane surface road at Wells Street, dumping high-speed traffic into the street grid.

Continue reading Gimme shelter: pedestrian improvements to Congress Parkway

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Rallying the community around the Bloomingdale Trail, a project for open space, art, and active transportation

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Meet Maggie Martinez. She was the final commenter at last night’s final public meeting for the development of the Bloomingdale Trail framework plan*. And what a final comment she made. If I had known it was going to be a rousing call to action for supporting youth in arts and cycling, and the benefits of the project for the Humboldt Park and nearby communities, I would have filmed it. Instead you get this (pretty good) photo, the audio of her speech, and a transcript.

I put the audio of Maggie speaking to a basic slideshow of photos from the meeting. Watch it on Vimeo. Continue reading Rallying the community around the Bloomingdale Trail, a project for open space, art, and active transportation

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Bloomingdale Trail public involvement process reached a milestone this week

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A view of the Bloomingdale Trail at Spaulding Avenue. At least one person in the audience asked for a rail car or two remain in the new park. Photo by Colin Clinard. 

On the evening of Tuesday, October 4, 2011, I attended the final presentation from the Bloomingdale “charrette weekend” at the McCormick Tribune YMCA, 1834 N Lawndale. The charrette weekend hosted invited stakeholders and members of the public who gathered with the design team to learn about the Bloomingdale Trail history, devise the topics they cared about, and express ideas and concerns about the project. For 16 hours on Monday and Tuesday, the design team synthesized all of the conversations, contribution, and ideas into a final presentation that took about 90 minutes to examine.

What follows is a detailed description of who said what about the project. I’ve divided the article into many sections with bold text headings for easier reading. I imagine that this article will evolve as people ask me questions. Continue reading Bloomingdale Trail public involvement process reached a milestone this week

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