Lake Shore Drive improvement meeting at Gill Park open to public

August 6, 2013 (CHICAGO)

The actual work is several years away, but on Tuesday night the first in a series of public meetings is being held to get ideas on the project.

The meeting was held Tuesday night on the North Side at Gill Park.

It's more than just a thoroughfare. For decades, Lake Shore Drive has been a vital economic and cultural corridor.

"It's a very heavily diverse corridor, and I don't think there's a replica of that anywhere in the U.S.," said Professor Siim Soot, UIC Urban Transportation Center.

On any given day, Lake Shore Drive is traveled by up to 155,000 motorists, 70,000 bus riders, and 20,000 cyclists and pedestrians who use the lakefront trail.

"Getting to the point of getting this thing rebuilt, planning for the next 100 years, is what we're here today to do," said John Baczek, Illinois Department of Transportation.

Already, a coalition of 15 civic groups has submitted a plan with a rendering that harkens back to a time decades ago when the lake met the drive in a more scenic, less traffic-heavy environment.

"How do we ensure that the lakefront remains a people-friendly place that isn't just about moving cars as fast as possible," said Lee Crandell, Active Transportation Alliance.

The Active Transportation Alliance is part of the group floating the proposal, which calls for lowering the speed limit from 40 to 35 miles an hour and adding a second lakefront trail for high-speed bicycling.

Bikers and pedestrians currently share a single path.

"Used to be on a bike myself all the time. I wish they wouldn't ride so fast. Somebody's going to get hurt one day," said Chris Rones, pedestrian.

The proposal also calls for establishing a dedicated bus lane or even a rail line, an idea some drivers object to.

"It would add to the traffic congestion. But mostly, I just like it the way it is," said Philip Grear, driver.

"We don't have very great transit on the lakefront, especially further from the Red Line. We need to be looking at how do we improve other options besides driving so people have those options," said Crandell.

There's a second public meeting scheduled for Wednesday at Truman College, and a third on Thursday at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.

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