CHICAGO (CBS) — More than six years after the city removed the Lake Shore Drive crosswalk between Buckingham Fountain and Queen’s Landing, officials are now restoring the traffic lights and pedestrian crossing.
The city removed the traffic lights and crosswalk at 500 S. Lake Shore Dr. in 2005 when former Mayor Richard M. Daley formed the new Traffic Management Authority. The Daley administration wanted to improve traffic flow for cars along Lakeshore Drive, but the move angered pedestrians, Grant Park activists and then Loop Alderman Burton Natarus.
When the crosswalk was removed, the closest pedestrian crosswalks with traffic lights were at Balbo Avenue or Jackson Drive, both of which are a quarter mile away. But many pedestrians continued to cross at Queen’s Landing, despite barriers the city put up after closing that crosswalk.
Initially, the city put up wire and plyboard fencing to block the crossing and later installed concrete posts and metal chains.
“There is a definite need for a well-designed, safe crosswalk for pedestrians at this location,” said Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein. “Despite the current deterrents, people continue to put themselves at risk by crossing Lake Shore Drive at what feels like a logical crossing instead of walking to Jackson Drive or Balbo Avenue.”
The crossing was a popular route for pedestrians to walk from Buckingham Fountain to the area of the lakefront path known as Queen’s Landing. It was where Queen Elizabeth II came ashore in 1959 when she visited Chicago after sailing through the Saint Lawrence Seaway and through the Great Lakes.
Work to restore the crosswalk will begin Thursday and the crosswalk and traffic signal will begin operating in two weeks, on Nov. 24. Most of the work will take place on Saturday, Nov. 19 between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., when the city will close two lanes of Lake Shore Drive in each direction.
Lanes will also be closed for short periods of time on other days to complete the work.
Crews will remove 20 posts and chains to create a 17-foot opening on the west side of Lake Shore Drive and an 18-foot opening on the east side. The remaining 26 posts and chains will help direct pedestrians to the crosswalk.
Construction will cost $125,000 and the city will reuse the posts that are removed along Lake Shore Drive in other locations, including Congress Parkway.