Help us pick the infrastructure to research and report on


Sidewalk conditions on the Torrence Avenue bridge. The bridge is apparently slated to be replaced. Photo by Eric Rogers. 

On Monday, Illinois Secretary of Transportation Ann Schneider announced the state’s multi-year multi-modal transportation plan and a list of all projects it intends to build. I looked through the District 1 list and picked out 29 projects to happen (or start) in Chicago from now until 2015.

My list is here which includes 1 pedestrian, 2 rail, 6 transit, and 20 road projects. The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) website lists all projects in the plan. Note that rail and transit projects are listed separately from road (and pedestrian overpass) projects.

Read through my handpicked list of projects and leave a comment telling me the project(s) about which you want to learn more. A sampling of the projects in the list:

  • Bridge replacement at Torrence Avenue at the Calumet River. This bridge is part of a recommended bike route and connects to the Burnham Greenway via 126th Street. It should be made bike friendly. The bridge deck is made of concrete, but the lanes are too narrow for comfortable cycling and the sidewalks are a mess.
  • 31st Street bridge replacement over Metra Electric tracks. The beach and playground here are popular destinations, and many people access the Lakefront Trail here. The bridge has two big bumps at the disintegrating joints at both ends of the bridge. CDOT has proposed protected bike lanes for this street segment, part of Wells Street to Lakefront Trail.
  • Resurfacing Noble Street from Augusta Boulevard to Erie Street. I’d like to recommend a change in this project: extend it north to Milwaukee Avenue, turn the segment from Milwaukee to Augusta into a two-way for bicycling (many people already ride against traffic here because it provides convenient access to Augusta Boulevard and Chicago Avenue, two blocks south), and make the street a bike boulevard. This street is very wide, yet has low traffic. The street should be modified to ensure appropriate traffic speeds.
  • Resurfacing Canal Street from Roosevelt Road to Cermak Road. This is a great opportunity to fix a gap in the bikeway network. A bike lane currently exists from 14th Street to approximately 17th Street, prematurely ending before the 18th Street cycle track. The road has a width compatible with a good diet plan, reducing the number of non-bike lanes and created a protected bike lane. The street is no longer used for Maxwell Street Market and can finally receive the quality bike lane due to it.

I excluded some projects because they are already under construction, like Fullerton Parkway at the Lincoln Park lagoon.

29 thoughts on “Help us pick the infrastructure to research and report on”

  1. I’m particularly interested in Noble St, as it’s a part of my daily commute. Pavement conditions between Milwaukee and Chicago are horrible.

    Creating a bike boulevard would be fantastic, almost beyond belief. It could also be extended south to Grand.

    Allowing southbound bicycle traffic on the block between Augusta and Milwaukee would certainly be convenient; I see lots of people salmoning there, but I always ride further southeast on Milwaukee to make a right on Augusta and then a left on Noble. That block is particularly dangerous for riding against traffic (it’s even dangerous riding WITH traffic) because so many people in cars are parking and double parking and leaving parking spaces on both sides of the street while dropping off and picking up students at Noble Street Charter High School.

  2. I’d love to see Canal resurfaced, not just in the section you’ve mentioned, but all the way to 29th St.  Many of us use it as a connector between Pilsen, the south Loop and other areas north of the Stevenson to Bridgeport, Chinatown, Bronzeville and other destinations south – via 26th St. or 31st.  Canal is a great connector to 26th and 31st, but portions of that area have significant craters, exposing old streetcar tracks.

  3. Steven — One critical element of improvements to Canal St. in my opinion would be to consider re-routing the bike line to the opposite side of the street (from the right side to the left side while pedaling north). 

    The current right side made sense when there was an actual drop-off spot for Union Station, but navigating a bike past the now on-street taxi stand & megabus station btwn Van Buren and Adams is horrifying.  With the left turn lane blocked between Harrison and Van Buren it becomes a protected zone, and helps prepare people riding through for the left turn onto Milwaukee at Lake St.  (Which is weird in and of itself, since the bike line magically jumps from the right side to the left side.)  It also helps bikes avoid interfering with the bus stops.  Brian S.

    1. It’s good that you bring this up because there will be multiple simultaneous projects on Canal Street: 1. The one I mentioned in this post from Roosevelt to Cermak.
      2. The one to replace the entire viaduct from Taylor to Madison.
      3. The one to reorganize transportation options alongside Union Station between Adams and Jackson.
      The Canal Street bike lane in its current configuration between Van Buren and Adams is, like you suggest, quite a bad situation. I think CDOT essentially admitted this in the Union Station public meetings, and I feel that bicycle routing in this stretch is on their radar.

    1. I don’t know. Two other readers have made comments about the bridge construction. Your question is part of why I made this post: to gather what people already know and what they don’t know so we can target articles towards those interests. 

    2. Yes, construction started last fall and the bridge is closed to traffic until sometime later this year.  See links in my earlier comment above.

  4. I think Noble would be of interest to a lot of people.  I use it as a bike route when I’m in that area.  The idea of a contraflow lane is an excellent one.  The current one-way configuration of Noble from Augusta to Milwaukee is a wasted opportunity in our existing bike route network.

    The 31st St. bridge replacement over the Metra tracks is very relevant to me, because I use that section of 31st to get from Bronzeville to the lakefront, as do plenty of other folks I know.

    I’m interested in the Torrence bridge.  I know that they closed it last fall to start a major restoration project, shortly after we routed the 62 mile ride on the Four Star Bike Tour there.  Here’s more on the Torrence bridge.  Are they really contemplating a full replacement after spending so many millions on the current restoration project?

    Nearby, construction is under way on the reconfiguration of the 130th/Torrence/Brainard intersection.  That area, which has been anything but ped and bike friendly, is supposed to include new ped and bike accommodations when it’s finished.  Here’s more on the 130th St. project.  

    With long-term environmental restoration projects happening at Hegewisch Marsh (just south of the intersection) and other nearby sites (mostly forest preserve properties), there is an increasing demand for a safe bike route through this area, both by those seeking a more environmentally friendly way to get to and from the sites where they volunteer, and those who are visitors to those sites.  

    There are several sites within the recently designated Millennium Reserve that are likely to see significant restoration projects in the coming years.  Some of these sites are accessible from the Burnham Greenway, while others are a bit more challenging to reach via the existing bike route network.  I and a few other south siders involved with Streets for Cycling 2020 have pushed for a much more complete bike route network south of 95th, because the barriers are so formidable and so many of our neighborhoods are underserved.  This would also create connection from neighborhoods to many of the Millennium Reserve sites.

    Also, each year I hear from and about more long distance bike touring passing through our area.  Some of these folks want to come into the city, while others seek a bypass through the far south side.  These subgroups of cyclists may be off the radar for most people, but they are growing groups.

    1. Thank you for the links about Torrence, 130th, and Brainard. 

      I’m gonna try something new and keep track of them in “project tracker” (imaginative name, I know). Here’s the Grid Chicago 2012-2015 Project Tracker on Google Docs. It won’t be the final resting place, but I need an initial document in which to start noting projects and status updates. 

      Unbeknownst to most people I started a website actually called “Chicago Project Tracker” in an effort to streamline reporting and information sharing about infrastructure projects in Chicagoland. The base code is there (it uses Drupal) but it’s a serious undertaking and I don’t want that responsibility – I’ve got enough on my plate. 

      CMAP, Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, has two websites that do a fair amount of what I want, but they only contain “after the fact” information: (uses Flash)

      I rode on the Burnham Greenway in 2010, for the first time, towards Wolf Lake. I was very disappointed to see that it just disappeared (disappointed, but not surprised in the least) just 1/4 mile before Wolf Lake. 

  5. Is that the re-re-building of the south portion of the Red Line? Hey, why doesn’t Grid Chicago do some investigative reporting and find out why the entire infrastructure needs to be replaced in less than 10 years?

    1. I’ve been wondering the same thing every time I’m sitting on a slow moving red line train south of 35th because of slow zones or yet another repair project.

  6. I’m a commuter-user of Noble from Milwaukee to Hubbard, so I have a lot of interest in seeing improvements to that stretch.  I see many other cyclists regularly using it, too.  One question: why do you suggest only resurfacing until Erie?  Is that because it narrows south of Erie?  The bike traffic often flows to/from Hubbard, so that seems to me to be where a Noble bike boulevard would want to continue to.

    Also, the 1-way stretch of Noble north of August is a cluster-jam on weekdays after school lets out.  Noble Charter parents might throw a fit at the notion of losing precious street space to bikes, making their children’s chauffeur pick-up from school even less efficient.  Why the kids don’t walk, bike, or take the CTA is a whole other discussion.

    1. The resurfacing to Erie is not my suggestion but the project extents listed in the linked document. 

      For that school, how many people use Noble as the pickup area versus Augusta? How many of those using Augusta are also parking in and blocking the bike lane? (That was a rhetorical question as I know the answer is a lot.) During school dismissal times, the Augusta bike lane is probably the most blocked bike lane in the city (including those few downtown). 

      The diagonal parking on Noble is another factor: it reduces the street width but increases the number of available parking spaces. 

      This leads to another discussion: If we are to take redesigning streets to accommodate all modes of transportation (most do not as of now), we will have to take a survey of our parking desires and policies (including the parking meter lease, which isn’t the end-all, be-all factor when it comes to parking in Chicago – there are other rules in play) and note (explain) how this directly affects the City’s (the people’s) ability to reconfigure streets. 

      Active Transportation Alliance touched on this in their now-retracted report on the parking meter lease, back in 2009.

      1. Does the fact that this stretch of Noble is under IDOT purview mean it is less likely to receive bicycle accommodations than if CDOT were in charge?

        1. Ugh. I always forget to look up jurisdiction when talking about roads. IDOT is the reason Jackson Boulevard’s protected bike lane (from Ogden Avenue to Halsted Street) hasn’t been built and CDOT prefers to give non-answers when asked about it.
          To answer your question, I believe that is the case (it’s less likely).

          1. Yup. Now I’m wondering how much of the Streets for Cycling Plan 2020 draft network intersects with IDOT jurisdiction.

  7. I just took a look at the Torrence Avenue bridge on
    Google maps and I got quite a surprise.  It looks like a road has been built on
    the old railroad bridge adjacent to the Torrence Avenue bridge on the east
    side.  Further, ramps have been built from Torrence to the new pavement on both
    sides.  It would seem the intention is that cars will use the old railroad
    bridge temporarily while the new Torence Avenue bridge is being


    After the new bridge is opened it would be logical
    to convert the railroad bridge into a bike bridge, like the one over the
    Kankakee River for the Wauponsee Glacial Trail.  There is an existing bike path
    along 126th Street from Torrence across Avenue O to the Burnham Greenway, and
    there are bike lanes along 122nd Street to Stony Island.  To make the route
    complete there needs to be a bike path along the east side of Torrence from
    122nd Street to the south side of the bridge.

  8. It would be great if there were plans to cover the bridge on Madison street leaving the loop. The new bike lane is awesome, but the bridge is terrifying under wet conditions.

  9. It’s boring as heck but…STRIPING! Or painting the roads. Not sure what it is called…

    I’m curious how CDOT and IDOT determine which intersections need to be repainted and how. I know the markings at many Chicago intersections are barely visible when you are on top of them as a pedestrian. I know that are not visible at speed. This is the most unsexy of all projects but I think it has the potential to save more lives per dollar than almost any other infrastructure project. I know the road markings at Montrose/Sheridan/Broadway are barely visible and the ones at Broadway/Claredendon are gone completely.

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