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Future of downtown Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive previewed in new renderings

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An ambitious plan to add new beaches, trails, and parkland is reportedly still under consideration

A rendering of an improved Oak Street curve with Lake Shore Drive pushed eastward to create new green space and recreational paths.
City of Chicago via Crain’s

A multi-year plan aimed at transforming Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive is coming into clearer focus as city and transportation planners narrow down their lists of proposed improvements. While the public is invited to weigh-in on a number of alternatives at a meeting this afternoon between 3:00 to 7:00 PM at DePaul University's Lincoln Park student center at 2250 N. Sheffield Avenue, Crain’s columnist Greg Hinz got the early jump on a fresh set of renderings.

Though the updated plans don’t bury the Outer Drive to the same extent as the conceptual images presented earlier this year by 2nd Ward Alderman Brian Hopkins, the alternative proposals still call for large swaths of new beach and parkland to be created with lakefill between Oak Street Beach and Lincoln Park. The plan would also reduce the severity of the dangerous Oak Street S-bend and replace the Chicago Avenue stoplight with a new underpass.

Though some transit concepts such as adding a light rail line or building an underwater expressway have been eliminated, others like dedicated high-occupancy lanes are reportedly still under consideration. In addition to the big changes proposed for the vicinity of Oak Street, Crain’s also has the scoop on renderings showing possible improvements to LSD and the Chicago Lakefront Trail near LaSalle, Fullerton, and Belmont.

Current conditions [left] versus one of the plans under consideration [right].
City of Chicago via Crain’s

According to Hinz, city officials expect to have a final plan selected by 2020. There’s been no word yet regarding how the cash-strapped city plans to pay for the ambitious project. However, with the Army Corps of Engineers involved, it’s likely that federal funds will play a role—similar to the Fullerton revetment that recently added six new acres of waterfront park space near Theatre on the Lake.

Chicago residents unable to attend today’s meeting will also have a chance to fill out an online survey on the topic. The questionnaire comes from Redefine the Drive—an ongoing joint initiative from the Illinois Department of Transportation, Chicago Department of Transportation, and the Chicago Park District. The group has already hosted six public meetings regarding the yet-to-be-finalized plan.