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The latest Lake Shore Drive proposal would reshape Chicago's coastline

Zach Long
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Zach Long
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The Illinois Department of Transportation has spent years coming up with a plan to improve access to Chicago's beaches without creating any new bottlenecks on heavily trafficked Lake Shore Drive. The latest proposal was unveiled last night during a community meeting at DePaul University, depicting a new vision for the lakefront between Grand and Hollywood Avenues that would be accompanied by some drastic changes.

The transformation would be particularly pronounced between Oak Street Beach and North Avenue Beach. The new proposal would require the city to create additional coastline real estate through lakefill, relocating Oak Street Beach so that it is nearly as far out in the lake as North Avenue Beach. The additional space would allow for new bike and pedestrian paths, giving Lakefront Trail users more options. While a previous proposal called for tunneling under Oak Street Beach to create a new route for Lake Shore Drive, the latest proposal depicts a new pedestrian bridge that would lead to the popular beach. 

In order to deal with traffic on Lake Shore Drive, IDOT is considering several options, including designating bus-only lanes, installing reversible express lanes, like those on the Kennedy Expressway or designating a lane for high-occupancy vehicles. The additional lakefill would alleviate the flooding of Lake Shore Drive, meaning that lanes would not need to be closed during storms that create waves in Lake Michigan.

Officials did not offer up a potential price tag for this plan, but the cost of creating new land on Chicago's shore can't be cheap. IDOT is hoping to have a final plan in place by the end of 2018 and could potentially begin construction as soon as 2019. We're not sure if the latest plan is feasible, but we're hoping that whatever IDOT decides to do, it won't close down some of Chicago's best beaches for too long.

Take a look at some renderings of the plan below and try to image this roomier version of Chicago's coast.

Courtesy City of Chicago

Courtesy City of Chicago

Courtesy City of Chicago

Courtesy City of Chicago

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