WOODLAWN — The number of cars on Stony Island is expected to increase by more than 40 percent if roads are closed in Jackson Park for Barack Obama's presidential library, according to the first projections from the Chicago Department of Transportation.
Transportation Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld said at a Thursday night meeting of the 1Woodlawn group that initial models show traffic would increase to 20,000 cars per day on Stony Island Avenue from 14,000 cars per day if roads are closed in Jackson Park, but it can be done in a way that doesn’t increase travel times.
“The model is showing the majority of cars would stay on Lake Shore Drive and go down to Hayes and continue on to Stony,” Scheinfeld said. “Our job is to make that the preferable choice.”
She said her department would return to the community in August with more details on how traffic lights and lane sizes can be tweaked to keep people moving through Jackson Park at about the same clip they are now.
The numbers are the first look into how a reworking of traffic in the park would affect major thoroughfares on the south lakefront.
The department has been charged with finding a way to eliminate Cornell Drive from 59th Street to Hayes Drive for the Barack Obama Presidential Center and Marquette Drive from Stony Island to Richards Drive for the golf course without making commutes longer through the park.
“Our current analysis shows we’re in shooting distance of that,” Scheinfeld said.
About 73,800 cars go through the Lake Shore Drive and 57th Street intersection daily on average, according to city traffic counts. At that intersection, drivers start to split off, choosing the best path for them through the park depending on where they’re going.
About half of the drivers going through the park now choose to stay on Lake Shore Drive.
The challenge will be for the city to persuade drivers who cut through the park to do so on Hayes Drive if Cornell Drive is eliminated.
Hayes handles about 7,200 cars per day on average between Lake Shore Drive and Richards Drive, according to city traffic counts. That’s less than a third of the 27,000 cars per day that drive on Cornell Drive between the Midway Plaisance and Hayes Drive on average.
Scheinfeld said CDOT has been tasked with figuring out a way to make the traffic pattern work with the road closures requested by the Obama Presidential Center and the Chicago Park District. It is not exploring alternatives.
She said that to make the new traffic pattern work, changes to the existing roadways could be dramatic, including changing the number of lanes, adding and removing traffic signals.
A draft traffic plan for the park is expected to be completed in August.