Lake Shore Drive seeking road to the future

"The heavy user demand combined with inadequate sight distances in some areas, the variety of user speeds and lack of awareness of other users ... often results in collisions on the trail,'' the study said.

CDOT is working with IDOT on the North Lake Shore Drive/Inner Drive project, which runs between Grand Avenue downtown and Hollywood on the North Side. IDOT has jurisdiction over the drive, which is officially signed as U.S. Highway 41.

The study period, which began in 2010, was originally intended to be completed in 2015 and was later pushed back to 2016, but the process has proved to be extremely complicated, Baczek said. The revised schedule is focused on continuing to collect ideas from the public and interest groups, conducting a follow-up public meeting in the summer of 2015 in which the assortment of proposals will be whittled down to "something that is more manageable'' and then wrapping up the study process in late 2017, Baczek said.

Construction, which would be done in phases over years, could begin in 2019 at the earliest, depending on funding, he said. The work would be done in phases over perhaps a decade, starting by addressing the most deteriorated infrastructure — bridges and tunnels.

More than 160,000 cars, 970 CTA buses carrying 69,000 riders and as many as 31,000 trail users each day are drawn to the roughly 7-mile lakefront stretch between Grand and Hollywood, according to data contained in the draft study on the drive that will be presented at Tuesday's public meeting.

The study cites an opportunity to improve accessibility to Lincoln Park and between the park and Lake Michigan. About 20 million people a year visit the park, according to IDOT estimates.

Those soaring numbers could not have been predicted early last century when city planners set in motion a boulevard through Lincoln Park — "where grass and shrubs and trees assert themselves."

By 2040, bus ridership on the drive is projected to increase 23 percent, according to the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning. Car counts are expected to increase minimally, from about 155,000 vehicles per day to 161,000 vehicles in the most heavily traveled sections, because the drive is already beyond its capacity to efficiently move traffic, officials said.

North Lake Shore Drive is 60 to 80 years old in different sections, and it's no longer cost-effective to keep resurfacing the road because the subbase is crumbling, officials said.

South Lake Shore Drive, from 23rd to 67th streets through Jackson and Burnham parks, was rebuilt in 2001-2005. A 2-mile extension from 79th to 92nd streets, through the site of U.S. Steel Corp.'s old South Works plant, opened last year.

Contact Getting Around at jhilkevitch@tribune.com or c/o the Chicago Tribune, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611; on Twitter @jhilkevitch; and at facebook.com/jhilkevitch. Read recent columns at chicagotribune.com/gettingaround.

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