Why is there a “vestigal” stoplight just south of Clark/Roosevelt?


Although it’s hard to see, there’s a button-activated, signalized crosswalk located between the first planter median and the jersey wall.

[This piece also runs in Time Out Chicago magazine.]

Q: There’s a working stoplight on Clark south of Roosevelt, that doesn’t seem to have any purpose or function. What’s the deal with this vestigial traffic light?

A: The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) installed this signal during the 2004 rehab of the Clark/Roosevelt intersection, when the Clark underpass was built, says spokesman Pete Scales. The stoplight was included for a future access road to a housing development planned for the vacant land southwest of the intersection. “That massive redevelopment project never got off the ground,” Scales says. “At this point it might take more money to remove the stoplight than leave it in.”


The crosswalk viewed from the west.

The red light actually does serve a purpose, however. It only goes on when pedestrians push a walk signal button for a mid-block crosswalk at that location, Scales says, although it’s hard to see the crosswalk from the north because the lines have faded. The Clark/Roosevelt intersection, only about 200’ north, also has crosswalks and ped signals in all directions.


The mid-block crosswalk viewed from the south.

But the mid-block crossing is a safer option for folks hoofing it from nearby housing developments to the Target store and Showplace Icon movie theater at the northwest corner, since they don’t have to watch for right-turning cars, and a planter median creates a pedestrian refuge, Scales says. Also [in this writer’s opinion], wide curb radii at Clark/Roosevelt decrease pedestrian safety because the rounded corners make it easy for cars to whip around them at high speeds.

Here’s an aerial view of Clark Roosevelt showing wide curb radii.

Active Transportation Alliance spokesman Ethan Spotts applauds CDOT’s decision to keep the stoplight active as part of one of Chicago’s few signalized, mid-block crosswalks. “We’re big fans of crosswalks and making sure that people of all abilities can cross safely,” says . “In this situation the crosswalk seems very thoughtful and helpful.” Keep that in mind next time you’re stuck in your car waiting for the traffic signal crooning à la Sting, “You don’t have to put up the red light.”


A couple blocks south on Clark from the signalized, mid-block crossing is another unsignalized, mid-block crossing that leads from a housing development to a tree strip with no sidewalk. Someday we’ll get to the bottom of this mysterious crosswalk to nowhere, but that’s a tale for another time.

Published by

John Greenfield

John has lived in Chicago since 1989 and has worked a number of bicycle jobs, from messenger to mechanic to managing the Chicago Department of Transportation's bicycle parking program, arranging the installation of over 3,700 bike racks. He writes regularly for Time Out Chicago, Newcity, Momentum and Urban Velo magazines and works at Boulevard Bikes in Logan Square.

7 thoughts on “Why is there a “vestigal” stoplight just south of Clark/Roosevelt?”

  1. Re: the mid-block crossing at the end of the article, I wonder if there used to be a bus stop there?  The bus stop at 15th and Clark has a similar paved area where people can wait or get off the bus, but there is a signal there.

    1. I’m curious to know what the CTA thinks about putting a bus stop there. It seems like a dangerous place to drop off passengers.
      Except the situation is no different than many Pace bus stops: there’s nothing there.

      1.  It doesn’t seem that different from numerous stops on inner LSD between Belmont and Irving.  Tiny spot on the east side between inner and outer LSD

  2. I hate everything about the way the Clark/Roosevelt intersection was reconfigured several years ago.  That section of Clark wasn’t ideal as a bike route, but at least it was rideable.  Now it’s anything but.  With the speeds that most drivers travel through that section of Clark (which was certainly designed for speeding), I often don’t even feel safe going through there in a car.  If I drive at anything close to the speed limit, I’m almost getting rammed.  As far as I’m concerned, the current Clark/Roosevelt configuration is the worst of all possible worlds.

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