CDOT hosts first of two roadway improvement meetings

Michael Strautmanis vice president of civic engagement with the Obama Foundations speaks with Experimental Station executive director Connie Spreen during an open house poster session following a video presentation by CDOT during a “Transportation & Mobility Visioning Meeting” at the South Shore Cultural Center, 7059 S. South Shore Dr., Wednesday, August 23, 2017.

Staff Writer

The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) hosted the first of two meetings for the week at the South Shore Cultural Center, 7059 S. Shore Drive, on Aug.23.

The first public meeting, which was attended by over 100 people on Wednesday, was an opportunity for the public to weigh in on updated information for proposed roadway improvements.

The format is different than past meetings that have been held this summer those meetings typically included a presentation and question and answer segment.

The purpose of Wednesday’s meeting was two-fold to gain feedback from the community about roadway improvements and construction as well as an opportunity to gather input for a new South Lakefront Framework, which will be an updated version of the 1999 framework plan that includes Jackson Park, Washington Park, and South Shore Cultural Center.

The framework plan will first focus on the changes to Jackson and South Shore Parks, with a discussion about Washington Park to be held at a later date.

Wednesday and Thursday meetings are styled like an open house.

Rebekah Scheinfeld, commissioner of CDOT, said they expect to complete the new framework plan by the end of this year.

The public was able to view a 20-minute presentation video which provided a scope of the current conditions of roadways in and around the future Barack Obama Presidential Center (OPC), current traffic analysis, and proposed improvements to the roadways surrounding the OPC and other park related improvements.

The 20-minute video played on a loop to accommodate attendees that arrived at various times during the four-hour meeting window.

South East Chicago Commission board president Shirley Newsome listens to a Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) representative during an open house poster session following a video presentation by CDOT during a “Transportation & Mobility Visioning Meeting” at the South Shore Cultural Center, 7059 S. South Shore Dr., Wednesday, August 23, 2017.

Attendees were then welcomed into a separate space within the Cultural Center. Replica boards from the video presentation were displayed. It provided them with an opportunity to speak with representatives from CDOT about their specific concerns or questions about proposed roadway closures and improvements.

CDOT, in the presentation, asserted that road improvements show that travel time for drivers in and around Jackson Park will remain unchanged.

Based on the time of day and direction of travel, “on many routes, travel times will be reduced, in one case up to two minutes. On select routes during peak hours, travel time goes up by no more than a minute and half,” said CDOT in a written release.

At previous meetings, the consensus from residents is that the closing of Cornell Drive, a six-lane road that runs through Jackson Park from 57th Street south to 67th Street, would not benefit drivers because of existing traffic patterns.

When former President Barack Obama unveiled the designs for the OPC, he mentioned that the plan recommended closing Cornell Drive.

At the unveiling in May at the South Shore Cultural Center, Obama said, “You can’t have little kids playing next to a road. You can’t have sledding into the road. You can’t walk to the Lagoon because there is no place to cross the street. Let’s restore Jackson Park to the original vision and let’s make sure traffic is accommodated down Lake Shore Drive as well as down along 59th Street.”

Roadway closures for both the OPC and golf course renovations include Midway Plaisance (eastbound) between Stony Island Avenue, and Cornell Drive, Cornell Drive from 59th Street to Hayes Drive, Marquette Drive from Stony Island Avenue to Richards Drive, and northbound from Cornell Avenue from 67th to 65th streets.

The concept design for the golf course calls for two underpasses one at South Jeffrey Boulevard and another at South Shore Drive.

The second underpass at South Shore, according to representatives from the Chicago Parks Golf Alliance would benefit golfers and the community at large who use the intersection to access the lakefront.

CDOT hopes to counter the closures by improving Lake Shore Drive, Hayes Drive, and intersections to accommodate diverted traffic.

The proposal outlines adding one southbound lane on Lake Shore Drive from 57th Street to Hayes Drive, a signal controlled crosswalk at Richards Drive, and reducing on street parking in order to add two travel lanes.

Additionally, the proposal calls for adding two lanes to Stony Island Avenue from 59th Street to 63rd Street, maintaining on street parking and loading areas.

Nathan Roseberry of the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) speaks with Hyde Park residents Laura Kracke (on left) and Mary Anton (on right) and during an open house poster session following a video presentation by CDOT during a “Transportation & Mobility Visioning Meeting” at the South Shore Cultural Center, 7059 S. South Shore Dr., Wednesday, August 23, 2017.

“Stony Island will benefit from a streetscape beautification project to include a planted median and added pedestrian safety features,” said CDOT in a written release.

New pedestrian crossings and underpasses will be added including one at 67th Street and South Shore Drive.

Closed roadways will be converted to parkland. CDOT projects a gain of three to five new acres of parkland.

Estimated costs for roadway improvements have not yet been determined, said Scheinfeld.

“It’s premature we want to get the design concepts right before we do hard estimates and put numbers out there,” Scheinfeld said. “This is really about the design development and process and making sure that we’re scoping things appropriately for the community and getting that feedback.

She said, “When we finalize the scope of investments that we think are appropriate, then we will [determine] projected costs.”

The second of the two meetings will be held on Thursday, Aug. 24, at the South Shore Cultural Center, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.