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Seven Miles Of Chaos, North Lake Shore Drive’s Future Debated

lakeshoredriveIt is a bleak picture that the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) is painting of North Lake Shore Drive from Grand Ave. to Hollywood Ave. in its current state. A study recently released by IDOT reiterates what many of us North-siders already know, North Lake Shore Drive can be chaotic. With an average of three accidents per day, 95% of the driver’s on the road violate the 40mph speed limit (many 30mph over). With no guardrails or emergency shoulders, accidents can be severe.

The pedestrian trail to the East of the Drive is no better. People are avoiding the path during peak times because they fear for their safety as traffic consists of highly varied speeds. Slower walkers are butted up against high-speed bicyclists and injuries are becoming more frequent. All of this plus deteriorating pedestrian tunnels and structurally deficient bridges are starting to give an iconic roadway a bad name.

250,000 people use the North LSD each day which includes 160,00o cars, 960 buses and about 31,000 trail-users. By 2040 Bus ridership is set to increase by 23%, while car traffic is only supposed to increase by about 2.5% because the road is already at capacity during peak traffic hours.  With bridges and roadways up to 80 years old in places, you can only resurface so much until a better solution is necessary.

Today IDOT held an input process from the public at the the Drake Hotel. Residents could show up, participate and give input. We are in the midst of a 4 year study plan where IDOT plans to collect information from residents and interest groups to come up with the best course of action.

The project, already pushed back a couple times, is set to start no sooner than 2019 and will last for up to a decade with work proceeding in stages. Though no cost estimate has been produced as of yet, it is a safe bet the project will run into the billions and will effect current traffic patterns in a major way.

Many ideas have already been put on the table. From dedicated bus and bike lanes to tunneling under LSD for an extra set of traffic lanes, every option seems to be presented. Light rails and added landfill to sections of the drive have also been presented. The plans will most likely stir up some controversy but as we plan for the future, North Lake Shore Drive will have to meet the needs of our Lakefront communities and beyond.

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