City Nerd calls DuSable LSD the worst waterfront highway in North America – Streetsblog Chicago

Earlier this year, Las Vegas planner and engineer (“plangineer”) and YouTuber Ray Delehanty, also known as CityNerd, did a great job of identifying what makes Chicago a great place to live. In the video “Affordable Cities: 10 U.S. Metro Areas With Underrated Liveability, Walkability, and Transit,” he looked at “which are the most affordable [cities over 250,000 people] to live in the United States, where good prices are intertwined with things that city lovers are interested in: public goods, culture, sports, walkability, cycling and transportation services.” He ranked Chicago in first place.

However, Delehanty is equally astute in identifying one of these in the new clip the worst things about living in Chicago: the fact that we have our beautiful lakefront enclosed by an eight-lane freeway. In the video “Highway Engineering Madness: 10 Waterfront Freeways That Need to Go (North America Edition),” he presents a rogue’s gallery of cities that have trashed their waterfronts to make driving more comfortable, and Chicago is once again at the top of the list.

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“Waterfronts and Riverfronts: In the world’s truly great cities, these are super valuable, one-of-a-kind locations, places where you can find amazing views, great recreation, densely populated areas, tourism (maybe too much tourism), and really, I’ll find it all,” City Nerd states and shows inspiring images of Rio and (I think) Copenhagen.

“But for some cities, they are just a very convenient place to put a highway,” he adds. “From a highway engineering perspective, placing highways along shorelines and rivers makes sense: shorelines are usually flat, requiring no structures or tunnels, and the natural barriers of a river, lake, or ocean mean fewer crossing conflicts. It’s a highway engineer’s dream. But transportation engineering doesn’t always (or usually) take into account the competing goals you might have for waterfronts, such as active and recreational use or dense mixed use.”

Here is his hall of infamy in this department:

  • Gardiner Expressway (Toronto)
  • I-278/Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE) (Brooklyn Heights)
  • I-5 (Portland)
  • Storrow Drive (Boston)
  • I-5 (Sacramento)
  • I-787 (Albany)
  • I-64 (Louisville)
  • I-76 (Philadelphia)
  • I-95 (Philly)
  • I-5 (San Diego)
  • I-705 (Tacoma)
  • FDR Drive (New York)
  • I-190 (Buffalo)
  • I-580 (Berkeley / East Bay)
  • I-376 (Pittsburgh)
  • DuSable Lake Shore Drive (Chicago)
  • I-91 (Hartford)
  • I-293 (Manchester)
  • I-25 (Denver)
  • Hwy 315 (Columbus)
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Delehany saves the worst for last, DuSable Lake Shore Drive. “It sounds like it could be some sort of avenue,” he says. “Eh, it’s a drive, not a highway. But make no mistake, outside of the short segment where it takes place [by] Millenium and Grant parks, that’s the freeway. What does it set [Dusable] Lake Shore Drive over the top is land use only. A fantastic green belt of beaches and parks, up and down the coast on the east side of the road, and huge density and great views on the west side. It runs practically the entire length of the city, almost all on a slope, as if to increase the noise, air pollution and physical barrier from the shore of the lake.’

He notes that occasional tunnels under the highway give pedestrians and cyclists access to the coast. “I don’t know who’s going to be excited about using it.”

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“Chicagoans, consider, not exist [DuSable] Does Lake Shore Drive bother you?” Delehany asks. “Or are you just kind of convinced it’s not that bad? I’m interested in the opinions of the people who have to live with it.”

A rendering of an alternate layout for DuSable Drive from the Better Streets Chicago website.
A rendering of the alternative layout for DuSable Lake Shore Drive from the Better Streets Chicago website.

The good news is that we don’t work live with eight lanes of car traffic. The North DuSable Lake Shore Drive reconstruction project could result in two of the eight lanes being converted to bus-only lanes — if enough residents make it clear that’s our preference. And many advocates are pushing for a bolder vision of transforming the drive into people-surfaced boulevards, with excess mixed-traffic lanes turned into more space for transit, walking, biking and green space.

It is high time that the people of Chicago stop allowing our massive lakefront highway to serve as a national embarrassment to our city.


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