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DuSable Lake Shore Drive Could Get Bus-Only Lanes, Tolls And More Lakefront Park Space In Proposed Overhaul

A planned rebuild of DuSable Drive north of Grand Avenue has been in the works nearly a decade. Here are the five design proposals.

DuSable Lake Shore Drive, as seen from the 360 CHICAGO Observation Deck in Streeterville on Feb. 5, 2021.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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UPTOWN — Plans to overhaul the northern leg of DuSable Lake Shore Drive are coming into focus as city and state officials unveiled five redesign proposals under consideration for the massive project.

The city and state’s transportation agencies have worked since 2013 on the Redefine the Drive plan to reconstruct DuSable Lake Shore Drive from Grand to Hollywood avenues. Much of the road was built in the 1930s. Though it has been repaved and widened, many of its bridges and tunnels are deteriorating.

Lofty plans for the redesign have been floated in recent years, including tunneling DuSable Drive under Oak Street Beach or adding acres of lakefront space to help smooth out its infamous S-curve.

The designs being considered have shed some of those grander plans while retaining elements such as added lakefront green space, reworked interchanges and a greater emphasis on public transportation.

The DuSable design “alternatives” being considered:

  • The Essential: keeps much of the existing street configuration while giving buses “priority at junctions.”
  • The Addition: retains four lanes of traffic while adding a fifth lane exclusively for buses.
  • The Exchange: converts one of four lanes into a bus-only lane.
  • The Flex: converts one of four lanes into a shared-lane for buses and toll-paying drivers.
  • The Double Flex: converts two of fours lanes for bus and toll traffic.

For more on the proposed designs, click here. To give input on the designs, click here.

Credit: Screenshot/Redefine The Drive
Depictions of the five design proposals being considered.

Every proposal but “the essential” would require new access ramps in the center median of DuSable Drive, which currently has four lanes of traffic in each direction.

All of the proposals would increase DuSable Drive’s footprint, but the lakefront would still have more green space with a rebuilt roadway, Redefine The Drive project planners said at a virtual meeting Thursday.

Each redesign would add at least 83 acres of green space to the lakefront, and much of that would be through lake infill that would extend the lakefront park into Lake Michigan, project planners said.

All of the proposals would improve public transit performance on DuSable Lake Shore Drive, though two designs (the “exchange” and “double flex”) would slow down cars, according to Thursday’s presentation. That’s partly by design, as a goal of the project is to prioritize buses on the road. Adding extra green space to the lakefront make the roadway more resilient to climate change, said David Miller, engineer with the Chicago Department of Transportation.

“The status quo is not working. … And accessibility for people with disabilities and others, that is so important, to make sure the lakefront becomes more accessible to everyone,” Miller said.

The outcomes of each rebuild design on issues like transit mobility and greenspace.

On top of a new streetscape, other critical changes are coming to DuSable Lake Shore Drive.

The existing junction at Chicago Avenue will be reconfigured, urban planners said. A stop light at Chicago leads to major backups on the drive.

An additional junction also is coming to Addison Street. At Addison and Chicago, the drive may go below grade to improve the junctions, officials said.

Engineers will also smooth out the drive’s S-curve around Oak Street Beach. A new configuration near the beach and Chicago Street will likely include bringing DuSable Lake Shore Drive somewhat below street level, project officials said. But it will not include a previous proposal to build a tunnel near the beach that would be covered by newly created park space.

Such proposals were too expensive to move forward, city officials previously said

The five design proposals were discussed at a task force meeting of Redefine The Drive officials Thursday. Planners will continue to evaluate them for feasibility, Miller said.

Officials hope to select a preferred design by the fall. A public meeting on the project is scheduled to take place in late 2022 or early 2023. Funding for the project still needs to be identified before construction moves forward.

Credit: Eric Allix Rogers
North DuSable Lake Shore Drive

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