Citizens Tuesday called for a police crackdown on speeding drivers on North Lake Shore Drive but offered mixed reaction to a proposal to create an upper and lower North Lake Shore Drive as part of an overhaul of the scenic U.S. route, from Hollywood to Grand.
The comments came during an open house on a joint city-state “Redefine the Drive” project that sought citizen solutions to the weak points in the 7-mile-long north end of Lake Shore Drive.
Illinois and Chicago Department of Transportation officials say most sections of North Lake Shore Drive are so old, they need to be rebuilt. In the course of doing so, officials hope to address other problems, including crumbling viaducts, inadequate space for high-speed bikers and joggers, a dangerous S-curve at Oak Street, and transit ridership that is projected to grow by 23 percent by 2040.
To solve some of those problems, said IDOT pointman John Baczek, some citizens have proposed “double-decking the drive’’ and creating an “Upper and Lower Lake Shore Drive,” ala Upper and Lower Wacker Drive. Asked if the idea was “crazy” or even viable, Baczek said Tuesday, “I wouldn’t say any ideas are crazy.’’
Lower Lake Shore Drive could be used by swifter-moving vehicles — and perhaps even carry a special toll. Meanwhile, the scenic upper drive could feature a slower, 35 mph speed limit advocated by one coalition of civic groups, as well as perhaps a special lane for high-speed cyclists. A dedicated bus lane or light speed rail could be added to either drive.
Steve Kungis, 50, of Lakeview East, called a double-decker drive a “fantastic idea” that would give faster-moving and slower-moving traffic their own travel spaces.
“It’s such a win-win, I think we could find the money,” Kungis said.
But Charles Papanek, 21, of Lakeview East, nixed the idea, saying any such route would face “major drainage problems” so close to the lake. He urged a dedicated bus lane on inner Lake Shore Drive and elimination of the Inner Drive’s parking spaces to encourage car owners to use transit instead.
The drive currently is “completely auto-centric,’’ Papanek said. “If you give people a better option than their car, they’ll get rid of their car.’’
One of the “critical issues” on North Lake Shore Drive is that, during the week, 95 percent of drivers headed out of the city and 78 percent of the those traveling into the city are speeding — some by as much as 30 mph over the 40 mph speed limit, officials say.
In addition, the north leg of the drive is plagued by an average of three traffic crashes a day, with 80 percent of the roadway designated as a high-crash site, a new city-state report indicates. However, 82 percent of those crashes in the last five years have involved property damage only.
Citizen solutions to that problem was simple.
“Get those cops out there and give tons of tickets,’’ said Kungis, who suggested police ride motorcyles to more nimbly catch up with speeders. “It’s a revenue pool right there, just waiting to happen.’’
City and state transportation experts said Tuesday that currently Chicago Police who patrol the drive don’t have adequate places to sit in police cars and clock speeders, the pavement space needed to accelerate into fast-moving traffic or a pavement shoulder to pull over offending cars.
They can, however, clock speeding cars from moving police vehicles and direct them to exit ramps.
Using speed cameras instead isn’t an answer unless an Illinois law is changed that currently gives Chicago the right to place speed cameras near schools and parks — but not on Lake Shore Drive.
Fred Wackerle, 75, of Uptown, said the law should be changed to allow speed cameras on Lake Shore Drive to combat speeding and accidents.
“It’s evident to me that there’s very little enforcement,’’ Wackerle said. “I rarely see squad cars on Lake Shore Drive pulling people over.’’
However, John McBarron, 58, of the Gold Coast, said police should not be hiding on the Drive, trying to trap speeders. They should be clearly visible to discourage people from speeding.
“Instead of just catching people who speed, they should be trying to stop people from speeding,’’ McBarron said. “Be out there. Be visible.’’