SOUTH SHORE — The Chicago Department of Transportation wants to add a new lane to Lake Shore Drive and two lanes to Stony Island Avenue to make up for the proposed closures of Cornell and Marquette drives in Jackson Park.
Rebekah Scheinfeld, commissioner of CDOT, on Wednesday unveiled plans for keeping traffic moving through the park if Cornell is closed for the Obama Presidential Center and Marquette for the combining of the South Shore and Jackson Park golf courses.
“We expect with the improvements we’ve made, we’re expecting travel times to remain relatively the same,” Scheinfeld said.
To make that happen, according to Scheinfeld, a new southbound lane would need to be added to Lake Shore Drive from 57th Street to Hayes Drive. The addition of an 11-foot-wide lane will require a loss of parkland on the Jackson Park side of Lake Shore Drive.
Stony Island Avenue would also grow in size from 59th Street to 63rd Street to add two lanes while keeping existing on-street parking, as well as making space for a landscaped median that would run down the middle of the street. The lane additions would swallow up portions of Jackson Park.
Scheinfeld said with the closure of Marquette and Cornell, the park would gain parkland, despite taking away some parkland to widen Stony Island and Lake Shore Drive.
“There will be more traffic on Stony, and that’s why we’re adding the capacity, but we are really pushing that capacity to Lake Shore Drive,” Scheinfeld said.
Hayes Drive, which is expected to handle most of the traffic moving between Lake Shore Drive and Stony Island Avenue that now uses Cornell Drive, will remain two lanes in each direction. Street parking will be removed to make way for a barrier wall between the east and west lanes. A traffic signal will be added at the intersection of Hayes and Richards drives, where the Statue of the Republic sits.
Scheinfeld said all the changes can be made with with fewer traffic lights. The existing four traffic lights at the Midway Plaisance will be cut to two to move traffic more quickly.
There would be a significant loss in parking if the designs presented Wednesday are implemented, but Scheinfeld made clear the planning is not finished.
“I want to be very clear we haven’t finished our work on demands for parking,” Scheinfeld said. “We’re still continuing our study to see how we can make up that parking.”
Scheinfeld said most drivers would see similar travel times, or even an improvement.
Scheinfeld said CDOT looked into the option of leaving Cornell Drive in place but covering it with a landscaped roof or burying it in a tunnel, but she said it quickly became clear the engineering costs would be prohibitive.
“You would also end up with gores going into and out of the tunnel, creating big holes in the park,” Scheinfeld said.
She said the plans still are proposals, and she will be listening to the public’s reaction at two public meetings Wednesday and Thursday evenings.