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!

Monday, March 28, 2022

 by Michelle Stenzel

Hello! After more than five years, I'm thinking of reviving this site as my personal blog, so I can share my views on several important projects and developments that affect walking, biking and public transportation in Chicago. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Update on the Redesign North Lake Shore Drive project

by Michelle Stenzel

The Illinois Department of Transportation is continuing the massive Redesign North Lake Shore Drive project. Task force members recently got an update from the project team, and you can view the presentation and all accompanying materials on the project web page at this link. You'll see: It's 117 slides, and a lot of information. I am a huge fan of infrastructure and an enthusiastic participant in a residents task force for the project, but I still found it somewhat overwhelming. Think of how much thought and discussion by engineers, city planners and neighborhood residents goes into changes at a single intersection or building site, and this project corridor is a full seven miles long. Nevertheless, I'll try to provide a brief general summary in this post.

Keep in mind that I'm on the Grand to Diversey Residents' Task Force and that's Bike Walk Lincoln Park's primary (although not sole) area of interest, so that's what I'll focus on in this post. However, there is plenty of information available about the four-mile stretch from Diversey to Hollywood as well, and I encourage you to view all the project documents yourself for those details.

We're already about three years into the project, and Bike Walk Lincoln Park supporters previously submitted our list of problems that we believe should be addressed during the redesign process.

At the recent update meeting, the project team provided illustrations of three alternative concepts:

Much more after the jump ----->

Monday, May 30, 2016

Come give feedback on the Lincoln Avenue corridor!

by Michelle Stenzel

Lincoln Avenue in Lincoln Park: Love it? Hate it? Meh? Now's your chance to share your opinions about what's working and what's not, and to provide ideas for improving that street.
Artwork like this mosaic adds an element of interest to Lincoln Avenue sidewalks. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
The Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce is working on crafting a plan to guide improvements to Lincoln Avenue from Webster to Diversey. This important Lincoln Park corridor will be undergoing significant changes in the next few years, given the upcoming redevelopment at the Children's Memorial site and other large construction projects, so it's a good time to assess the street's assets and liabilities. They're seeking feedback about the public way conditions, transportation options, mix of businesses, the state of the buildings, and more. (continues -->)

Monday, May 2, 2016

Our input on the Cortland/Chicago River redevelopment

by Michelle Stenzel

Bike Walk Lincoln Park hosted a "Ride and Envision" event last weekend in order to assess the area around Cortland Street and the Chicago River, which is slated to be redeveloped over the next few years. The site lies within the boundaries of the city's 2nd ward, and Alderman Brian Hopkins has begun seeking input from the community.

Citizens in action! (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
Michael Reynolds and I led a group of citizens on a slow bike ride around the area, stopping to discuss its current state and what needs to be done to make it better for people walking, on bikes, and using public transportation. In general, we noted that the area had been a barrier in the past to people using active transportation, with lack of sufficient pathways through the site and poorly maintained sidewalks and bike lanes. It was a "dead zone" with little human activity at most times, making it uncomfortable to walk or bike through. 

At the same time, the area already has many beneficial transportation assets nearby, and the new development should take full advantage of those. The assets include the #73 Armitage bus line, proximity to the Brown Line L station at Armitage, the Clybourn Metra station, the easternmost access point of the 606/Bloomingdale Trail, buffered bike lanes on Elston and Clybourn, and the northernmost station for future Bus Rapid Transit on Ashland Avenue.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Ride and Envision a new Cortland/Chicago River corridor

by Michelle Stenzel

The Cortland Street corridor in Lincoln Park will be undergoing big changes in the next few years. Finkl Steel and other industrial operations have vacated the area, and the buildings have been razed, clearing the way for 30 acres of new development. 

Outline of the 30-acre site slated for redevelopment after three industrial owners vacated the area. (Image credit: Handout from North Branch Works industry presentation in May 2015.)
This is a hugely important transportation corridor for people living in and visiting Lincoln Park and Bucktown, and to anyone who cares about access to the CTA, Metra, Chicago River, Clybourn and Elston bike lanes, the Bloomingdale Trail, and more.
The Cortland corridor connects the Armitage L Stop and retail, Clybourn bike lanes and retail, Chicago River, Elston bike lanes, Clybourn Metra station, Bloomingdale Trail, and more. (Google maps)
The site lies on the north branch of the Chicago River, and was historically used largely for heavy industry. However, Alderman Brian Hopkins, whose 2nd Ward boundaries encompass the former Finkl site, has taken steps to remove the “Planned Manufacturing District” zoning designation, which will clear the way to a future for the area that is more befitting to a large parcel of land near the center of the city. Read an overview from DNA Info Chicago here.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Review of the new Fullerton shoreline improvements

by Michelle Stenzel

The year-long Fullerton Revetment Project has wrapped up, and officially opened for public use once again. The main purpose of the undertaking was to improve the shoreline, and protect infrastructure and the Theater on the Lake from the lake water.
The view of the Chicago skyline from the edge of the new Fullerton revetment. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
The plan for the Fullerton Revetment Project.
A large portion of the lake has been filled in to provide nearly six acres of new park space. There’s new grass, sapling trees, and giant prairie stones that provide seating.  
Six acres of new parkland at Fullerton. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
The whole area feels a lot bigger, with more room the just breathe and relax. With the great views of the downtown skyline, I’m predicting this new parkland will become a popular spot for wedding and portrait photographers to bring their clients. Public space along the lakefront is precious and well-used, and this is definitely a valuable addition to the shoreline.