Public meeting held for Lake Shore Drive improvements

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The public had a chance to share their ideas for the future of North Lake Shore Drive, some sections of which are 80 years old. (WLS)

In phase one of what's being called a long process to come up with a plan to improve North Lake Shore Drive, the public was given an opportunity to share their ideas for its future at a meeting held at the Drake in Chicago. Some sections of the road are 80 years old.

North Lake Shore Drive stretches seven miles from Grand to Hollywood. Over the course of its 80 years, it has become a heavily traveled artery, carrying more than 250,000 drivers, bus passengers, bicyclists and pedestrians each day.

With that comes a lot of wear and tear, which is why the Illinois Department of Transportation and the Chicago Department of Transportation have launched the North Lake Shore Drive study, seeking public input for a modernization plan.

"Whether it's an ambitious plan or not," said John Baczek if the Illinois Department of Transporation, "the fact of the matter is it's an 80-year-old facility that needs to be rebuilt."

Jack Jones, who lives near North Lake Shore Drive, says safety concerns prompted him to attend the meeting.

The $19 million study is phase one of a three phase plan which will result in construction several years from now, and it has already uncovered some troubling facts.

There are aging overpasses, outdated pedestrian tunnels and a high number of crashes on the drive, an average of three per day.

"Lake Shore Drive is identified as a high crash location, a 5 percent location in Illinois," said Baczek.

The study has also found there is poor east-west connectivity to the lakefront, congestion on bike and pedestrian trails and overcrowding on buses.

The next public meeting will be held in the summer of 2015, and then ideas will be compiled into an executable plan. The first phase of the project is expected to conclude in 2018.

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