Roadway changes related to Obama Center estimated to cost $175 million

Location of proposed developments and roadway closures. – Courtesy of Jackson Park Revitalization Traffic Impact Study

Staff Writer

Chicago City officials have estimated that $175 million is the cost of related roadway changes in Jackson Park for the construction of the proposed Barack Obama Presidential Center and other projects, including the merger of the two golf courses.

The changes include adding an additional southbound lane to the Outer Drive along the park, the widening of Stony Island Avenue to carry five lanes of traffic and parking along the park, the closing of part of Cornell Drive and Marquette Drive, the creation of five pedestrian underpasses under park roadways, the fixing up of the remaining Cornell, Hayes, Marquette and Richards drives and new signaling at major intersections.

On Friday afternoon, City officials released the traffic study.
City Hall in a statement said that it was pursuing all potential funding sources including funding from the State of Illinois.

According to the City, “Presidential libraries/museums often receive state funding for related infrastructure projects. Here in Illinois, the state provided $100 million starting in 1998 for construction of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. In addition, the state of Illinois has provided $10-15 million in annual operating funding for the Lincoln Library since it opened in 2005 – totaling more than $120 million to date. The OPC (Obama Center) will not require any operating subsidy.”

According to the traffic study the closed segments of park roadways would be converted into open space as follows:

• Cornell Drive between North Midway Plaisance and Hayes Drive
• South Midway Plaisance between Stony Island Avenue and Cornell Drive
• Marquette Drive between Stony Island Avenue and Richards Drive
• Northbound Cornell Drive from 68th Street to where Cornell Drive becomes two-way (approximately midway between 64th Street and 65th Street)

The traffic impact analysis includes traffic volume projections up to 2040. It takes into account “the reassignment of traffic due to the proposed roadway closure, background traffic growth, and trips generated by the OPC development,” according to the report.

Traffic analysis results, according to the study, show that proposed roadway changes would “successfully mitigate any potential traffic impacts in the 2040 horizon year and that there would be no significant traffic impacts as a result of the proposed project.”

Also included in the report are two previously known pedestrian underpasses on Jeffrey Avenue and between Marquette Drive and 67th Street and at the intersection of South Shore Drive and 67th Street, which remains in the plan.

As well as the addition of two underpasses at the Hayes Drive and Cornell Drive intersection and at the Lake Shore Drive and Hayes Drive intersection.

Construction for the transportation improvements is expected to begin in early 2019 and last through 2020. City officials say the proposed closure of Cornell Drive through Jackson Park would need to occur by the end of 2019, so that is complete in time for the Obama Center’s opening in 2021.

To view the Jackson Park Revitalization Traffic Impact Study visit

Relatedly, the Chicago Park District Board of Commissioners during its February meeting approved of the transfer of six acres of parkland from the Park District to the city of Chicago for “right of way improvements,” according to a statement from a Park District representative.

Additionally, the board accepted eight acres of park property from the City of Chicago. The exchange will result in a net gain of approximately two acres of parkland for the Park District in Jackson Park.

The proposed site for the Obama Center is within Jackson Park along the east side of Stony Island Avenue between the Midway Plaisance to the north and 62nd Street to the south.

The design plans for the construction of the Obama Center require the closure of Cornell Drive.

The six acres of parkland that is proposed to transfer to the city for roadway improvements include: “lands west of Lake Shore Drive from 57th Street to Hayes Drive; land east of Stony Island from westbound Midway Plaisance to 67th Street; and land south of westbound Midway Plaisance from Stony Island to Cornell Drive.

Additionally, portions of existing parkland will be converted to roadway in the area of Hayes Drive and Richards Drive as well as in the area of Hayes Drive, 63rd Street, and Cornell Drive for intersection improvements,” wrote a Park District representative in an email to the Herald.

The eight acres of parkland from the city currently include roadways. Those roadway segments will be converted to park use and include: “Cornell Drive from approximately 62nd Street south to Hayes Drive; Marquette Drive from Stony Island Avenue to Richards Drive; and the northbound lanes of Cornell Drive from 67th Street to approximately 64th Street. Additionally, portions of existing roadway will be converted to parkland in the area of Hayes Drive and Richards Drive intersection; and in the area of Hayes Drive, 63rd Street, and Cornell Drive intersection,” wrote a Park District representative in an email to the Herald.

The news about estimated costs for roadway changes came days ahead of a second public meeting that was hosted by the Obama Foundation on Tuesday, at McCormick Place, 2301 S. King Dr. Representatives from the Obama Foundation discussed its plans and zoning application for the Obama Center.