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A look at the ambitious plan to bury Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive and create new park space

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The initiative hopes to improve safety, correct traffic issues, and create 70 acres of new public space

Images courtesy of the 2nd Ward

Taking inspiration from Daniel Burnham’s 1909 Plan for Chicago, an effort to completely redefine Lake Shore Drive between Ohio Street and North Avenue is still being pushed by a number of Chicagoans. The long-term idea has been previously championed by 2nd Ward Alderman Brian Hopkins, who spoke again on the proposal this week at a town hall meeting hosted by the Streeterville Organization of Active Residents (SOAR). The city councilman presented renderings of the project drawn last summer by local architecture firm VOA Associates, now part of Canadian-based Stantec.

At its heart, the plan would straighten out and bury Lake Shore Drive’s tight and dangerous Oak Street S-bend and would provide unfettered pedestrian access to 70 acres of newly created lakefront parkland, beaches, trails, and a breakwater island. The improvements would buffer the roadway from the routine abuse dealt by crashing winter waves as well as fix the dysfunctional Chicago Avenue bottleneck by removing traffic signals and adding new interchange ramps.

Courtesy of the 2nd Ward

With a price tag reaching as high as $500 million, the project would be hugely expensive and would require the cooperation of multiple local, state, and federal entities like the various Departments of Transportation and the United States Army Corps of Engineers. Provided the massive undertaking is approved and funding can be secured, construction wouldn’t begin until at least the year 2020 and will likely take many years to complete.

These challenges notwithstanding, proponents of the scheme remain bullish on the plan given all the positive feedback received. "This is one of the best things we can do to improve not just our neighborhood, but the entire city," Alderman Hopkins told Streeterville residents, reported David Matthews of DNAinfo. "I think Daniel Burnham would be proud."

With an average of three crashes occurring per day, the project is expected to greatly improve vehicular safety.