CategoryConstruction Updates

360° spherical photos of Chicago from 300 feet in the air

This rad app called Hangar 360 captures a spherical photo from 300 feet in the air. If you look at them on your phone the picture takes advantage of your phone’s sensors and the image moves as your phone moves.

Click on the linked location to view the spherical photo.

Plazas at 150 N Riverside and River Point (444 W Lake St)

Wolf Point – this launch site can no longer be used because it became an active construction site for the second of three skyscrapers a couple of days ago.

Providence St. Mel and downtown Chicago

Garfield Park – one of the city’s grand parks and part of the boulevard system, or “Emerald Necklace” that connects the Northwest Side boulevards to the West Side parks of Humboldt Park and Garfield Park to the South Side parks of Douglas Park, Washington Park, and Jackson Park.

Former Ickes housing site and its relation to downtown

Ickes redevelopment site and National Teachers Academy – this site used to have over 1,000 residences owned by the Chicago Housing Authority and is going to be redeveloped into just under 1,000 units for a mixed-income community.

Smokestacks at a former incinerator in Humboldt Park

West Side incinerator – these two smokestacks remain from one of the city’s four trash incinerators, and are the subject of an upcoming story from City Bureau.

What abysmal pavement quality on a brand new bike lane means

Approaching the intersection and bike lane minefield. 

I find it very embarrassing that Chicagoans are supposed to ride their bicycles in this. I feel embarrassed riding my bike in this. I rode my bike on this pavement of abysmal quality and then felt ashamed and uncomfortable that I exited the bike lane and rode elsewhere.

The bike symbol succumbs to flooding which occupies half the bike lane’s width. 

I felt like a person in a wheelchair given an “accessible” theater seat behind a column that blocks a majority of my view of the stage. I felt like I was a reporter at a newspaper given a new computer where the keyboard was missing 42 keys. The bike lane was unusable, I was the butt of a cruel joke. This felt like a pittance, throwing crumbs to the masses.

2013 April Fool’s Day came early, in fall 2012. 

The photos in this post show a bike lane in Douglas Park against the curb, with a painted buffer, running in a minefield of patches and potholes on asphalt pavement. The bike lane was installed in the fall of 2012, as part of Mayor Emanuel’s efforts to construct 100 miles of protected bike lanes. The goal has since been reduced after the definition of a protected bike lane was surreptitiously changed. The change was revealed by Grid Chicago.

You can find this at the intersection of Sacramento Boulevard and Douglas Boulevard in Lawndale on the Near Southwest Side of Chicago. View more photos of this and the other West Side Boulevards bike lanes on my Flickr. They’ve probably been the most controversial: there were complaints because of ticketing cars parked in the under construction bike lane on Marshall Boulevard; then there were complaints about the “decreased safety” of the protected bike lane on Independence Boulevard which has prompted CDOT to agree to remove it and replace it with a buffered bike lane. The Independence Boulevard debacle started because of ticketing cars parked in the under construction bike lane – I doubt it would have become an issue if cars weren’t ticketed.

Franklin Boulevard at Kedzie Avenue, taken on the same day. Thankfully it’s wide enough that you can bike around it while still being in the bike lane. 

This is what transit stations should look like

The CTA Morgan Green/Pink Lines station had a soft opening today. No press conference, no fanfare. I learned about the opening the night before on Twitter.

This station makes several strong statements: it clearly identifies the CTA as the organization that services this building, this operation, this monument to efficient transportation. The MORGAN STATION text tells you where you are, and you can read it from blocks away. And the artistic bike parking with a sufficient storage quantity says that the neighborhood will be biking here. Continue reading

31st Street marina is open for business, with boat slips, boat launch, and new playground

In this photo you can see the new community center and harbor master office, picnic tables, parking garage, and shade sails on the roof of the community center. 

I completely agree with Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin’s description of those colored trees: “garishly painted recycled trees that goes overboard in an attempt to create a festive atmosphere”. I would prefer to see them removed and real trees take their place. I was saddened to see mature-growth trees being removed during construction. I appreciate a lot of the new features the marina brings to Burnham Park, like the upgraded playground, a small park on the pier and a bike trail that should bypass a lot of beachgoer traffic.

These mature trees were replaced with…

…these garish trees.

The sign in the background is outdated and should be replaced. To access the trail from 31st Street you ride down the driveway and then enter the sidewalk.

This playground looks like a lot of fun. It has a climbing wall! 

I have some criticisms about the new design of how people access 31st Street from the Lakefront Trail and vice versa.

1. The distance from 31st Street to the LFT has increased from the previous design. Before there was a short hill to traverse from the street to the trail. Now one must enter the trail by sharing the driveway with automobiles, then entering a sidewalk, and then entering the trail. At this sidewalk entrance, there’s an outdated sign. It says “Yield to pedestrians in crosswalk” when state law says motorists must “stop for pedestrians in crosswalks”. I think this sign should be immediately replaced.

The crosswalk that connects the sole sidewalk leading people from 31st Street to the beach house should be here, instead of 50 feet further south as this is the quickest way to reach the beach (actually the quickest way is to walk through the grass on the left side of this photo or through the shrubs left of the photo, off screen). 

2. This crosswalk is also too far from the beach house and people will be crossing the street at the end of the lower curve where there is no crosswalk and no sign.

New intersection to access the marina parking lot and boat launch area. 

3. I’d like to know if the intersection here is timed or has a sensor. If it has a sensor, will it pick up the presence of cyclists? Regardless, this intersection is an improvement over the previous access path which couldn’t facilitate Lakefront Trail cyclists who wanted to travel westbound on 31st Street (they could use the south side sidewalk, which is inappropriate). Westbound cyclists can now share the driveway with automobiles (less than ideal) but can enter westbound 31st Street without any awkward sidewalk moves or crossing the Lake Shore Drive ramp against the light.

4. My good friend Calvin points out that the new marina doesn’t have storage for small sailboats like Lasers and Vanguards. These boats are a cheap and easy way to teach children and young adults how to sail and are more accessible to the wider population. Storage is less expensive and they can be operated alone. He says that only Montrose and Belmont have storage for these boats.

Further reading

Stony Island cycle track still on, but conflicting reports

Update June 9, 2011: At Wednesday’s Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council (MBAC), Deputy Commissioner Luann Hamilton reiterated that the Stony Island project was still on and that the long timeline to complete (2014) will be largely because of design reviews and other considerations required when using state and federal funding. She also mentioned that the Chicago Tribune printed a correction in its Wednesday morning paper

The Chicago Tribune wrote about the Kinzie Street protected bike lane on Monday and may have implied at the end of the article that the Stony Island cycle track project, which has earmarked federal funding through the Illinois Transportation Enhancements Program, was canceled (“dropped from consideration”).

On second read, this probably means it was no longer being considered the location for the city’s first protected bike lane. News reports and interviews with city officials put the completion and opening of this protected bike lane in 2014, at the end of Rahm’s first term.

Conflicting reports

In February, Chicago Tribune transportation reporter John Hilkevitch quoted CDOT spokesperson, Brian Steele, saying, “There is already a lot of bicycling on the route, and we envision the cycle track as being a good connection to Jackson Park, the lakefront and the larger bike network in the city.”

Then yesterday, in June, the same reporter wrote, “But the location, chosen mainly because Stony Island has abundant lane capacity, was dropped from consideration because too few bicyclists use the corridor, officials said.” [NBC Chicago reported the same today alongside their video of today’s press conference.]

How many people ride their bikes on Stony Island? What is CDOT’s criteria for choosing protected bike lane locations?

Still on the drawing board

A person rides their bicycle on what will soon be the buffer between the bike lane and parking lane. Flexible delineators, also known as soft-hit bollards, will demarcate the zones.

Bike box, another first on Kinzie Street

Update June 7, 2011: CDOT and Mayor Emanuel acknowledge the project with a Tuesday morning press conference. Here’s the press release (that doesn’t reveal anything we don’t already know) and photos from the event. NBC Chicago has video from the press conference (2:27).

A bike box is a well-marked area where bicyclists can queue at signalized intersections ahead of cars, a way to get ahead and make bicyclists more visible to drivers. The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) installed one Tuesday morning, on Day 2 of the Kinzie Street protected bike lane project (read about Day 1). I asked a CDOT worker if it will be painted green or another color and they replied it would probably would. It appears that the design for the project is still being done while construction proceeds. I expect a section of the next block will be worked on tomorrow.

See a bike box in Portland.

More new information about this project

CDOT was also grinding out pavement markings on Kinzie Street in front of Jewel-Osco, where the CDOT worker explained a left-turn lane would be created for westbound travelers (matching the left-turn lane in the eastbound direction next to the bike box).

The uphill bike lane will not be protected. Chicagoist commenter BlueFairline pointed out a conflict with trucks delivering goods via hose to the Blommer chocolate factory. The truck needs to be curbside. Today confirmed how this would work out.

Lastly, the CDOT worker could not confirm if there will be a bike-only left-turn lane on southbound Milwaukee at Kinzie Street, as I suggested earlier.

Chicago is the First City when it comes to permeable paving

The New York Times wrote on Sunday about the Pilsen pollution fighting bike lanes I’m really gung-ho about. They didn’t provide any new information, failing to even mention their location. But they did publish an excellent 3D graphic showing how it works! (The article’s main focus is how Chicago is predicted to become hotter and wetter, “more like Baton Rouge”, and how city planners, geniuses all, are working on this problem.)

First, here’s a photo of what the bike and parking lanes look like now, both made with a topper created by Italcementi that removes nitrous oxides from the air:

Then take a look at this diagram showing the streetscape design on Blue Island between Wood and Ashland (still under construction).

Hat tip to The Car Whisperer – “Chicago may stop paving streets altogether in ten years”.

Improvements in store for the Damen-Elston-Fullerton intersection

Updated May 2, 2011, with additional comments and concerns.

The City of Chicago plans to make major changes to the intersection of Damen-Elston-Fullerton. They revealed a lot of these changes and invited the public to learn more and make comments on the current proposal at an open house event Wednesday, April 27, 2011, at the Wicker Park-Bucktown library.

What is now actually three, closely-spaced intersections with six legs (two of them skewed), will become three, distantly-spaced intersections at right angles.

Why is this being done?

  • The closely-spaced intersections “encourage poor decision making.”
  • Small radii makes it difficult for trucks to make turns.
  • The island and closely-spaced intersections makes for limited queue capacity which blocks the other legs.
  • There are a lot of crashes, over 400 in a 3-year period. That’s over 7 per week.

So what’s the solution?

The Chicago and Illinois Departments of Transportation, and project consultant Benesch came up with 4 alternatives.

  • Enhanced “no build” – no improvements, but modernize signals didn’t address safety or delay. [In infrastructure project planning, there’s always a “no build” alternative to which the other alternatives are compared.]
  • Fullerton tunnel, or underpass. A majority of Fullerton traffic would bypass the intersection, but the surface intersection would still have same conditions outlined under “why.” Additionally, there are many utilities under the intersection that would all need to be relocated. It would take 3 years to build. For the length of the tunnel, surface traffic on Fullerton could only make right-in, right-out turns.
  • Overpass. A majority of Fullerton traffic would bypass the intersection, but the surface intersection would still have same dismal conditions. This has the same turn restrictions as the underpass – this and its imposing aesthetics could impact economic development (the presentation didn’t say whether the project designers expected this to be positive or negative).
  • And there’s the “preferred alternative.” It has wider sidewalks, larger turn radii, and “safer bike accommodations.” Delays would improve from up to 7 minutes to under 30 seconds.

Other benefits of the preferred alternative include:

  • Access to properties is preserved.
  • Simpler intersections means fewer conflicting movements.
  • A “new bike lane” (I disagree with calling it new – the project is preserving the existing bike lane, bringing it into the new route of Elston Avenue, or whatever the new street will be called).
  • Supports future economic development by having simpler traffic.

What’s the timeline?

  • 2011 – Finalize phase 1 engineering. Seek approval from IDOT and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). Start the design process.
  • 2012 – While continuing work on the design, begin acquiring right of way.
  • 2013 – Finish design, and bid out project.
  • 2014 – Award project and begin construction.

The project is estimated to cost $32 million, with funds coming from the TIF Bank, grants from the FHWA, and the City’s own capital improvement funds.

Comment on the design until May 13 by emailing Bridget Stalla, the project manager who works for the City of Chicago. All emails to her about this project will go on the public record.

So what are my comments?

Lack of bike lanes

Currently there’s no striped bike lane for .26 miles on Damen Avenue between where it ends at the I-90/I-94 highway and railroad viaducts to where it ends on the hill to the bridge over the Chicago River.

The project does not add this bike lane, which I feel is much needed for the cyclists who deal with the congestion and tight spaces. I talked to Bridget and Colin Coad, a staffer at Benesch about this. Both admitted that a bike lane in this location was considered. It wasn’t in the current design because Damen Avenue must have two lanes northbound to keep the queue capacity and keep delays down. An animation showed the difference in delays between the existing and proposed intersection configuration. The delay reduction in the new configuration was very noticeable. This doesn’t preclude installing a bike lane.

An attendee asked Ryan Thady, who was explaining the animation, if Benesch had done analysis on a single northbound travel lane south of Fullerton Avenue on Damen Avenue. He answered, “No. If there’s one lane, there’s an increased delay.”

Colin said that a bike lane has always been under consideration and will be again under consideration. Bridget says she realizes there’s a need to reevaluate the bikes on Damen Avenue situation. “We need the two lanes to really make this thing work like it’s supposed to. We will look at extending the bike lane on Damen north of Fullerton [from the bridge approach to the intersection of Damen and Elston].”

I’m confused about “making this thing work like it’s supposed to.” After hearing this, I felt that I don’t know if it’s clear to me what this thing is supposed to do. I thought it was about improving safety and reducing delays. By having a bike lane, bicyclists’ safety will be improved and their delays will also be reduced.

Some bicyclists may be involved in collisions with motor vehicles here because they move against signals. The same is probably true for drivers who get into collisions: frustration and impatience and simply not knowing when you’ll have a turn may lead road users at this intersection to proceed when it’s not safe to do so (and against the signal). The project designers said that this intersection “encourages poor decision making.” With dedicated space, in the form of a bike lane, as well as simpler design and an expectation of when it will be one’s turn to go, bicyclists and drivers alike will better comply with intersection controls.

The plan does nothing to add bike lanes through the Elston or Damen intersections. The Damen bike lane currently ends 700 feet before the intersection. The Elston bike lane ends 400 feet before the intersection. That funny business needs to stop and we need bike lanes in Chicago that go THROUGH intersections, much like you see in New York City (example photo 1 and photo 2.

Complete Streets

My final comment, a quick one, is that the project made no mention of reduced travel times for those who ride the Fullerton or Damen Avenue buses through this intersection. We still have a long ways to go in accommodating, and caring about, our sustainable transportation modes.

Bicycle crashes are also not mentioned in the documentation, while motor vehicle crashes with pedestrians are. There were more crashes with bicyclists than with pedestrians in the 3-year period of 2007-2009 (12 versus 4). Bicycle counts have not yet been taken at this location; they should be conducted as soon as possible.

Complete Streets in Illinois needs to stop being a policy without any teeth and put into regular practice. Enough with just “considering” all transportation modes; we need to “provision” them.

Roundabout

Was a roundabout considered at this location? The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s Guide to Roundabouts (PDF) lists criteria on where to use roundabouts, including these which describe the intersections in question:

  • Large traffic signal delays
  • Heavy left turning traffic
  • More than four legs or unusual geometry
  • History of crashes involving crossing traffic
  • Traffic growth expected to be high and future traffic patterns uncertain or changeable [because Elston is a diagonal and near shopping, traffic volume will not change]
  • History of right angle crashes [this is true because of the confusing signal phases]

While three roundabouts may not be necessary, one should be considered at least for the Elston-Fullerton intersection, which has the most space available for such a facility.

Curve and wide road of New Elston Avenue

On “New Elston Avenue,” between Fullerton and Damen, there are two regular lanes and one bike lane in each direction. The widening of Elston was not justified. The high radius curve on New Elston Avenue on the east side of the project, and two regular lanes in each direction, will likely cause higher-speed traffic than bicyclists are used to on many roads on which they travel in great numbers. Automobile drivers speeding around the curve may enter the bike lanes. This is a good case for protected bike lanes at least on this part of the roadway. Thank you to A. Lottes for pointing out the curve to me.

Removing the  center island

Some commenters on The Expired Meter have suggested removing the tinny center island (as well as removing the second stop bar and signal every road user passes over) and converting it to a simple six-way intersection like Lincoln-Ashland-Belmont. While doing so may reduce delays or the number of crashes, it would probably fail to do both. I think it should be a considered alternative.

Queue backups caused by Fullerton-highway ramp intersection

The plan does not address the westbound queue backups that start at the Fullerton intersection with the I-90/I-94 highway ramp. Westbound drivers constantly and consistently block the Fullerton intersections with Damen and Elston while waiting to go through the signal at the highway ramp. This intersection is outside the project area but pivotal in its success at reducing delays, at least with the “remaining,” new intersection at Damen.

More information

The end of the presentation said that all exhibit materials would be on the City’s website, but I didn’t find all the poster boards, so here are most of them in my Flickr photoset. I assume they would be posted here.

Photos

A visualization of the crash history (only automobiles and pedestrian types included) at the intersection.

Bird’s eye view of preferred alternative.

High-speed rail in Illinois, February 2011 edition

View a map of the places described in this article.

A friend of mine traveled by Amtrak’s Lincoln Service from Chicago to St. Louis in January 2011. He reported, “It’s extremely smooth north of Alton and south of Lincoln. You can barely even hear or feel that you’re on a train.” Track replacement as part of President Obama’s economic stimulus and high-speed rail plan is complete between Alton and Lincoln, Illinois.

Photo shows a Union Pacific work train next to new track in Carlinville, Illinois. Photo by Tim Carman, taken in November 2010.

The next track replacement phase will take place between Lincoln and Dwight, scheduled to be completed in Fall 2011. A December 2010 press release from the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) explains the next steps for the first state to begin construction on high-speed rail grants provided by American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA):

  1. Installation of new, enhanced grade crossing warning protection
  2. New cars and locomotives
  3. Station upgrades

Like all press releases, this one also seems to ooze idealistic endeavors by adding that the “public can expect to enjoy its first taste of 110 mile-per-hour train service when a 20-mile segment between Dwight and Pontiac is completed in 2012.” But this project has a high likelihood of being completed as described.

Read more posts on high-speed rail in Steven can plan.

Construction update: Halsted bridge over North Branch Canal

The Chicago Department of Transportation’s (CDOT) contractor*, Walsh Construction (search for them on the City’s contracts website), is hard at work removing the existing bridge on Halsted Street between Goose Island and Division Street (about 1150 N Halsted).

The two-lane bridge with dangerous open metal grate deck will soon be replaced with one that has 4 shared lanes, 2 bike lanes and made with a concrete deck. CDOT has not released any information explaining the widening or how the street north or south of the bridge will be aligned. This is disconcerting as street width and street design are the major factors that determine traffic speed. While the road surface will be improved, especially for those bicycling, the added street width may influence an increase in automobile speeds negating any perceived improvement in safety.

As of Monday, January 24, 2011, parts of both spans of the moveable bridge have been removed and crews were actively removing additional parts of the deck and overhead cross pieces.

Using a torch to remove the cross pieces.

Removing the deck.

The official detour does not invite people bicycling to go any certain way. If people bicycling take the car route, they will be guided onto a narrowed lane over another part of the North Branch Canal on Chicago Avenue (lanes were realigned from two to three – two eastbound, one westbound).

Idea to improve the detour

As the detour exists now over the Chicago Avenue bridge (between Halsted and Kingsbury), there are three narrow shared lanes (two eastbound, one westbound) on an open metal grate bridge. When dry, the bridge is slippery. When wet, the likelihood of falling while bicycling over it increases. I propose that an official detour be created for people bicycling on this route to go on the sidewalk as near to the bridge span as possible. On the eastside of the bridge sidewalks are stairs – build a ramp over each staircase. Allow people to ride their bikes on the sidewalk but install signage to ask them to dismount and yield when people walking are present. For those biking north in the detour (onto Kingsbury), a bike box will be provided at northbound Kingsbury before it crosses Chicago Avenue (so people riding bikes can position themselves in front of the queuing cars). See the graphic below:

*Walsh has had at least $292,639,510.94 in contracts awarded in 2007-2010 and is one of the Illinois’s largest construction companies.

© 2017 Steven Can Plan

Theme by Anders NorénUp ↑