Sunday, April 3, 2022

North DuSable Lake Shore Drive project: Here are the basics

 by Michelle Stenzel

This post will get you up to speed on the Redefine the Drive - North DuSable Lake Shore Drive project, at least just the basics. I've been a member of a geographic stakeholder task force since 2013. I'm reviving this blog in order to share information on this important project. (Although I hope to be posting about topics other than this one as well.) 

Late afternoon on the Lakefront Trail in December 2021.

The North DuSable Lake Shore Drive project looks to redesign and rebuild seven miles of that street from Grand Avenue near Navy Pier to Hollywood, where DLSD ends and meets up with Sheridan Road. DLSD is US Route 41, and it's fully within the boundaries of the city of Chicago, but it's under the jurisdiction of the Illinois Department of Transportation. IDOT regularly consults with other agencies but they consider it to be "their" project.

The project scope includes the NLSD roadway itself, all ramps and intersections, the Lakefront Trail, and some adjoining park space. It's an enormous undertaking, given the 7-mile length, and the complexity of structure and interests involved.

Lake Shore Drive and the Lakefront Trail along Streeterville, in 2014.

There is a task force of about 70 people from stakeholders like non-profits Active Transportation Alliance, Metropolitan Planning Council, and Friend of the Parks as well as residents from areas close to DLSD.  In 13 task force meetings over the past eight or so years, the IDOT project team presents data and plans, and we give them feedback. 

There have been four general public meetings so far for the project, and that's frankly not enough for such a huge project with far-reaching implications.

The original timeline said it would take three years to reach the Preferred Alternative, but we're nearly nine years into the project already. 

Just in March 2022, an updated timeline was posted on the project website indicating that a Preferred Design Alternative will be chosen by the end of this year. I think that's very optimistic, given the scope and complexity of the project, and the fact that the public hasn't had sufficient input on the options. 

My lay person guess is that it will be 1-2 years to get to a decision, 2-4 years for approvals, design and funding, and 10+ years to build. Hello, 2040!

What has been decided so far? Certain designs seemingly have been ruled out, like a Florida-style causeway soaring over Lake Michigan.

Other things seem to be on the drawing board under a fairly broad consensus, and those are called Baseline Improvements on the project website.  They include addition of new access points for people walking/biking, like the new underpass proposed just south of Fullerton, illustrated below.

Another Baseline Improvement is filling in lake shore to create new parkland along Streeterville and the Gold Coast. I'll do a separate post on the Baseline Improvements.

A very big determination not yet made is the design of the actual roadway. These five alternative designs are still being put forth. I'll do another thread on those as well.

If you want to do a deeper dive into this project right now, there are MANY slide show presentations, PDFs of individual intersections, illustrations and maps on the project website:

If you would like to give the IDOT project team your opinions, they ask you to e-mail them at:

I know that looks like a burner address where e-mails go to die, but I can assure you it is actively managed by project team members.

Stay tuned for much more on this topic!

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