Earlier this year Las Vegas-based planner and engineer (“Planginier”) and YouTuber Ray Delehanty, aka Citynerd, did a great job of identifying exactly what makes Chicago a great place to live. In the video “Affordable Cities: 10 U.S. Cities with Underrated Liveability, Walkability, and Transit. Metro areas,” he observed, “are the most affordable [cities over 250,000 people] to live in the US, but where good prices intersect with things city-lovers care about: public amenities, culture, sports, walkability, bike-ability and transit service.” He ranked Chicago first.
However, in the new clip, Delehunty is just as smart to spot one bad Things about living in Chicago: The fact that we have our gorgeous lakefront blocked off by an eight-lane highway. In the video “Highway Engineering Madness: 10 Waterfront Freeways That Need to Go (North America Edition),” he presents a rogues gallery of cities that have ruined their waterfronts to make driving easier, and Chicago once again tops the list.
“Waterfronts and Riverfronts: These are the most valuable, one-of-a-kind spaces in the world’s truly great cities, places where you get great views, great entertainment, dense housing, tourism (maybe more tourism), but really you get ‘everything,'” City Nerd states, showing inspiring images of Rio and (I think) Copenhagen.
“For some cities, though, they’re just a very convenient place to put a freeway,” he adds. “From a highway engineering perspective, siting freeways along waterfronts and riverfronts just makes sense: shorelines are generally flat, requiring no structures or tunnels, and the natural barriers of a river, lake or ocean mean fewer intersection conflicts. It is a highway engineer’s dream. But traffic engineering doesn’t always (or usually) take into account the competing objectives we may have for waterfronts, such as active and recreational uses or dense mixed-use development.”
Here is his embarrassing position in this department:
- Gardiner Expressway (Toronto)
- I-278/Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE) (Brooklyn Heights)
- I-5 (Portland)
- Storo 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)
Delehany saves the worst for last, the DuSable Lake Shore drive. “It looks like it could be some kind of tree-lined boulevard,” he says. “Eh, it’s a drive, not a freeway. But make no mistake, outside of the short segments where it runs [by] Millennium and Grant Park, that’s the freeway. What puts [Dusable] Lake Shore Drive at the top is the only land use. A stunning greenbelt of beaches and parks, up and down the coast on the east side of the roadway, and lots of density and great views on the west side. It practically runs the length of the city, at almost all grades, as if to maximize physical barrier from noise, air pollution and lakefront.
He notes that occasional tunnels under the highway provide access to the shoreline for pedestrians and those on bikes. “I don’t know who would be excited to use it.”
Chicagoans have weight, exist [DuSable] Lake Shore Drive bothering you? asks Delehany. “Or have you kind of convinced yourself that it’s not that bad? I’m interested in hearing from people who want to live with it.”
The good news is that we not Have to live with eight lanes of car traffic. The North Ducable 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, converting the drive into human-scale surface boulevards, converting more mixed-traffic lanes into more space for transit, walking, biking and green space.
It’s time for Chicagoans to stop letting our massive lakefront highway serve as a national embarrassment to our city.