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Lake Shore Drive facelift could add dedicated bus lanes, widen the road

One proposal for the future of North Lake Shore Drive would expand the transitway to 10 lanes, making way for bus-only lanes. | Courtesy of North Lake Shore Drive project

The plan to refurbish North Lake Shore Drive could widen the road from 8 to 10 lanes to accommodate buses, officials from a joint study into reconstructing the roadway said last week.

One of the proposals the Illinois and Chicago departments of transportation is considering would add two dedicated bus lanes down the center of the drive.

At a July 10 Task Force meeting involving the project team and task force members, officials told attendees they’d narrowed down the options for how to renovate the road up and down the 7-mile stretch to two — center bus lanes called “Dedicated Transitway — Left” or an option that adds bus queue jump lanes, which allows buses to skirt around stoplights at intersections.

Both transitway options for the “Redefine the Drive” project would result in a wider 10-lane Lake Shore Drive.

Yet, the next Task Force meeting in the fall will look at ways the project can avoid widening North Lake Shore Drive using a scenario called “managed lanes.” These would include either converting one lane on each side of the drive to bus-only lanes, or converting one on each to congestion pricing lanes.

Congestion pricing lanes would be primarily bus only, but motorists could use them by paying a toll. That fee would fluctuate depending on the number of cars using the lane at a given time.

North Lake Shore Drive starts on Hollywood Avenue and runs down to Grand Avenue, snaking through 11 neighborhoods and six wards. Some parts of the road are close to 80 years old and in need of reconstruction, according to officials.

“Major infrastructure elements of the Drive, such as bridges and lower pavement layers … have exceeded their expected service lives by 30 or more years,” officials say in the project’s purpose. “Continued maintenance is not a cost- effective strategy for maintaining such a vital facility.”

Additionally, officials have said the structural issues lead to an average three crashes per day on the stretch.

The North Lake Shore Drive project aims to improve safety and mobility on the road and address the aging infrastructure. The project is looking at adding better bike paths and pedestrian walkways, more efficient roadways and greater green space. The first phase of the project is estimated to be completed by 2020.

A previous meeting of the Task Force last year suggested options such as pushing an Oak Street curve of the drive further east, making way for added parks and bike paths.