Pedestrians will no longer put their lives in jeopardy when they cross Lake Shore Drive to get from Buckingham Fountain to the lakefront.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration is restoring the pedestrian crosswalk and traffic light – complete with pedestrian countdown signals – at the location commonly known as “Queen’s Landing.”
The crosswalk was originally installed in 1988 after a 13-year-old girl was run over and killed, only to have then-Mayor Richard M. Daley order it removed in 2005 to speed traffic flow.
But, Daley’s surprise decision did not stop pedestrian daredevils from ducking under the chains attached to concrete posts to dash across ten lanes of traffic on Lake Shore Drive.
“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 … or Balbo,” Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein said in press release.
“There is a definite need for a well-designed, safe crosswalk for pedestrians at this location.”
The $125,000 project to restore the crosswalk began Thursday and is expected to be completed on Nov. 24.
Brief lane closures will be required. But, the bulk of the work that requires closing two lanes of traffic in each direction will be done on Saturday, Nov. 19 between the hours of 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.
CDOT crews are removing chains and the 20 concrete posts between them to create an opening 17-feet wide on the west side of the Drive and 18-feet wide on the east side.
Another 26 concrete posts, known as “bollards,” will be used to direct pedestrians to the crosswalk and prevent crowds from spilling onto the highway.
The countdown signal will “help pedestrians make informed decisions before attempting to cross without being temporarily stopped at the median,” officials said.
Ron Burke, executive director of the Active Transportation Alliance, said he supports the city’s decision “100 percent.”
“We don’t endorse crossing a busy street like Lake Shore Drive with no crosswalk, but we see that people continue to do it. There’s such high foot traffic because of the lakefront, Buckingham Fountain and Grant Park,” Burke said.
“If we want to encourage walking in Chicago, we need to provide for safe access.”
The Queens Landing project is the latest sign that Klein intends to follow through on his promise to level a playing field he believes is heavily tilted in favor of drivers to better protect pedestrians.
Earlier this year, Klein suggested reducing the number of downtown corners where right turns on red are allowed and giving pedestrians a three- to five-second jump before the stoplight turns green at 100 dangerous intersections.
He also proposed narrower streets, slower speed limits and intersections where vehicles are stopped for 14 seconds every other light cycle to give pedestrians a chance to cross in every direction, including diagonally.
And just this week, Emanuel got the green light from the Illinois House to use red-light cameras and cameras concealed in vans to catch motorists who speed near schools and parks.