City to Reopen Queen's Landing Crosswalk?

by crandell | 09/18/2009

Pedestrians attempt to cross at Queen's Landing despite the lack of a crosswalk.

I thought it was time to revisit the Queen's Landing crosswalk following last month's approval of the updated Central Area Action Plan. You may recall that this crosswalk connecting Buckingham Fountain to Lake Michigan was closed back in July 2005. Well, slipped in among the costly major infrastructure projects outlined in the plan is a small item about a crosswalk with a $500,000 price tag. No massive overdone bridge over LSD as had been discussed following the crosswalk closing -- just a simple way to cross the street at Queen's Landing and restore a critical connection between the Lake and Grant Park. A bridge or an underpass would be an over-engineered and overpriced solution to getting people across the street. It's also much better to preserve the views and sight-lines in the crossing rather than forcing people underground where they'll be disconnected from their surroundings. So the crosswalk's inclusion in the plan is a very welcome development -- it's cheap enough and simple enough that it could actually get done in a reasonable time-frame (the plan says 2008-2012). All it really requires is an attitude adjustment for the City.

Blair Kamin also revisited this issue in a recent post, suggesting the Burnham Memorial money may have been better invested in restoring Queen's Landing (note he also snags a picture from this site).

Two years ago, I wrote about crosswalk closings downtown and sent letters to Mayor Daley, downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly and CDOT. In that post, I linked to an ArchitectureChicago PLUS blog post from June 27, 2007 (scroll to "Chicago's downtown Aldermen - Pushovers no More?") that quoted Reilly on the Queen's Landing crosswalk:

Reilly: That’s something I’ve been talking about with CDOT [Chicago Department of Transportation] just in the past week. . . . We’re talking about whether or not to revert back to the old crossing arrangement (applause) I’m working with professionals who know an awful lot about traffic management and infrastructure - certainly a lot more than I do - to get their informal recommendations and then we’ll hash that out, but it is something to be revisited. Certainly given the potential for winning an Olympic bid has resulted in the Department of Transportation taking a closer look at that. Hopefully we’ll have something to announce in the next few weeks, or coming months.

I received a response to my letter from Reilly's office on Oct. 15, 2007, saying, "The OEMC [Office of Emergency Management and Communications] has studied this location in great detail and has determined that the closing of this pedestrian crossing improves vehicular traffic flow and significantly improves both pedestrian and vehicular safety at this location." In other words, they'd rather just try to get rid of pedestrians altogether than actually have to provide a crossing. And as I noted in my original posting, it's a very dubious claim that removing the crosswalk prevents crossing and makes the location safer. In just 15 minutes of observation, I saw plenty of people run across the highway at Queen's Landing without a crosswalk. Remember that this crosswalk was originally installed because of the death of one such little girl trying to cross LSD. Reilly's correspondence also included a letter he received from OEMC. It stated that OEMC monitored traffic flow before and after the removal of the crosswalk and found they could move more cars after removal. There is no mention of pedestrian flow, pedestrian safety, or impact on access to the Lake. They only claimed that closing the crosswalk didn't "eliminate" access to the Lake, because you could still walk a half mile out of your way to cross the street.

But now after two years, it looks like Reilly may have made some headway on this, or perhaps the city came to its senses all on its own. Hopefully, they'll follow through.

Draft Central Area Action Plan

Pedestrian Connection at Queen's Landing

Project Description: The improvement of a pedestrian connection between Grant
Park at Buckingham Fountain and the Lakefront across Lakeshore Drive is a key
component of the Grant Park Framework Plan. Includes improvements to crosswalks and signage. Queen’s Landing was named after the 1959 visit by Queen Elizabeth II when she came ashore at that spot.

Implementation Goal: 2008-2012
Implementation Responsibility: CDOT
Cost Estimate: $500,000

13. Pedestrian Connection at Queen’s Landing
Pedestrian mobility between Buckingham Fountain and the Lake will be restored. An at-grade street crossing is preferred, although a more expensive alternative could be the construction of a grade separated underpass at this location. Goal: Complete by 2012.

Am I the only one that

Am I the only one that wonders why it would cost half a million dollars to install a crosswalk?

Pestilence: Half a million

Pestilence: Half a million does sound expensive, but it's most likely because of the traffic lights -- they don't come cheap. Had the City not ripped out the old traffic lights out of stupidity, then this wouldn't be so expensive. A little Google searching showed that hundreds of thousands of dollars for a signal is typical. This project would also likely involve some landscaping and design elements that wouldn't be free either. I'd personally love to see a different surface material used on the crosswalk to remind drivers that they're crossing pedestrian space, not vice-versa. They should really call these things crossdrives, not crosswalks.

I haven't got the chance to

I haven't got the chance to visit the new crosswalk yet but I am looking forward to try it. I just love the cities that have this kind of architecture. I couldn't expect less from Chicago.

That's an impressive

That's an impressive investment for our city. The area looks so much fresher now. Are there any businesses allowed on this crosswalk? What about superannuation investments?