January Neighbor’s Night Out: Transportation Updates with CDOT

Neighbors gathered at Baderbrau for the GSLA’s January NNO, to hear updates from the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) on local transportation infrastructure projects.  Jeff Sriver from CDOT (also a South Loop resident) provided an overview of the scope of CDOT’s work and recent projects in the area, then shared updates on upcoming projects and initiatives.

 CDOT Project Updates:

Street Resurfacing

Due to the late release of state funds in 2017, there were several road resurfacing projects that started late in the season but were completed, such as the resurfacing of Clark from Roosevelt to Cermak.  Balbo will be resurfaced in 2018

Bike Lane Improvements

Dearborn bike lane improvements will be made in 2018. See the proposal presented in 2016 here.

During the Q&A section, a resident asked about more protection for Roosevelt bike lanes, as it’s a very busy street and doesn’t feel as safe as other bike lanes in the area.  Jeff noted that Roosevelt in particular is challenging due to the disproportionate amount of traffic it carries.  CDOT’s goal is to balance the different stakeholder needs (pedestrian, cyclist, motorist).  At this time there are no plans for additional cycling infrastructure on the Roosevelt bridge beyond the painted bike lanes.  The broader challenge of limited East-West roadways in the area for use by motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians was also noted. 

Proposed site of bridge at Taylor Street (currently not planned due to lack of funding).
Proposed site of bridge at Taylor Street (currently not planned due to lack of funding).

Regarding plans for additional East-West river crossings, CDOT is still holding the infrastructure for a bridge at Taylor Street but there has not been funding allocated and the project will be large due to the need for a bridge to span over the rail tracks and the river, and the portion over the river must be movable to allow for maritime traffic.

Wells-Wentworth Connector

The purpose of the Wells-Wentworth Connector is to provide an additional North-South traffic corridor, connecting Wentworth Avenue in Chinatown to Wells Street in the South Loop.  The construction of Phase 2 of the project will begin in 2018, which will improve the road infrastructure between 19th and Cermak, including curving around the Chinatown library.  The Northern section (Phase 3) is planned to begin in 2019.  See additional information about preliminary plans here.

The 3 phases of development for the Wells-Wentworth Connector
The 3 phases of development for the Wells-Wentworth Connector.  Image Credit: CDOT
A viaduct will be used to route the street beneath the rail tracks that cross the 62-acre Related Midwest development site.
Location of the rail tracks (circled in red) that cross the 62-acre Related Midwest development site.

There were several questions regarding how the Connector will run through the 62-acre Related Midwest site, as there are several obvious challenges to this site, including active rail tracks to the South and East of the site which currently limit the site’s connection to the city grid.  There will be a viaduct constructed during Phase 3 of the project to route the street under the train tracks that run East-West across the site, just North of the field house at Ping Tom Park (see right). 

The roadway itself will likely be one through traffic lane in each direction, with dedicated turn lanes, protected bike lanes, and landscaping and sidewalks.  There will be street parking and CDOT is planning for the possibility of bus stops in the future (although no route has been established because no roadway exists there yet). 

There was also a question about plans to connect the Related Midwest site with Clark and the rest of the city grid.  This is still in proposal development with the developer, so intersections will be included in the Phase 3 plans for the Wells-Wentworth Connector but not built right away.

Motor Row Streetscape

Updates to the curb, sidewalk, and landscaping will begin this year, to create a more pedestrian friendly environment with wider sidewalks to accommodate sidewalk cafes.  The plan also includes a “road diet”.   View the full proposal here.

Riverfront trails / Riverwalk

There is a feasibility study underway to connect the riverwalk from Lake Street South to Ping Tom park.

Additional Q&A

There was a question regarding the plan for South State Street between Cermak (22nd) and the Stephenson, (along the East side of the former Ickes site).  CDOT has reviewed and approved the plans for Street and alleyways in preparation for that development to begin – there will be a street, alley, and sidewalk that connects to the grid.  You can see the latest plans for the redevelopment of the Ickes site here.

 

Updates from Alderman Dowell:

Alderman Dowell was in attendance, and shared updates about the Ickes redevelopment and Motor Row.  Regarding public safety, she mentioned the new officers that will be joining 1st district and the upcoming public safety meeting with the 1st District Commander coming up on January 25 at 6 pm at Daystar.

The Alderman also mentioned some additional proposed hotels along Cermak and Motor Row.  A resident asked whether there was any data to confirm that there will be sufficient demand for the new hotels being built in the area.  Alderman Dowell noted that the additional hotel capacity and Wintrust arena have now caused several large conventions that previously have not chosen our city to take another look, and some additional conventions have booked.  Editor’s note: If you are interested in learning more about this topic, additional detail regarding average hotel occupancy may be found on the Choose Chicago web site.

Regarding new housing in the area, a high rise is planned at 1408 South Wabash, and a small (30-ish unit) development is planned at 1802 South State.

Wintrust parking has been a topic of discussion among neighbors and Alderman Dowell met with businesses on January 16th to discuss the plan and gather feedback on suggested improvements.

Summary of feedback from attendees:

Attendees who provided written feedback regarding the evening’s topic are excited about the planned improvements and feel that they will improve the quality of life for residents of the South Loop by bringing more businesses to the area and relieving some of the pressure on North-South traffic corridors in the neighborhood.  Residents were most excited about the plans related to Motor Row and improved traffic flow for cyclists in the short-term, and the establishment of the Wells-Wentworth Connector in the longer term.

Several improvements to roadways, alleys, and sidewalks in the area were suggested, and these have been shared with Alderman Dowell.

We also asked attendees about their experiences with the new Wintrust Arena parking restrictions, and the feedback was mixed.  Residents who live closer to the new arena were positive about the changes, however some other attendees raised concern regarding the new restriction area being too large and lack of awareness of when events are taking place / specific dates and times when the parking restrictions are in effect.  All feedback and suggested improvements to the current parking plan have been shared with Alderman Dowell as she continues to work with the community on this issue.

 

About the GSLA:

The Greater South Loop Association (GSLA) is a 501c3 non-profit organization founded in 1998.  Our mission is to bring neighbors together to maintain and improve the South Loop as a vibrant, diverse, and inclusive community.  Learn more at greatersouthloop.org

About Neighbors’ Night Out:

The GSLA’s Neighbors’ Night Out is a monthly series of informal gatherings at local restaurants/bars where neighbors may gather to meet and discuss topics relevant to our neighborhood.  The topics change from month to month based on feedback from our annual State of the South Loop survey and other current events that impact the South Loop.