The Bridge Is Over
By Matt Wood in Arts & Entertainment on Oct 14, 2005 3:03PM
Days before last summer's Taste of Chicago, Mayor Daley's new Traffic Management Authority, the same think tank that brought you flourescent green human speedbumps, decided to remove the stoplight and pedestrian crosswalk on Lake Shore Drive at Buckingham Fountain. The spot, named "Queen's Landing" after Queen Elizabeth II came ahsore there during her 1959 visit to the city, had had a stoplight since a teenager was killed by a car there in 1988. After removing the light, the city also continued its lakefront beautification project by erecting rustic wooden fences along the bike path to prevent pedestrians from crossing mid-block. "It's a touch of Olney, right here in the city," said a spokesperson at the time.
But this week city officials reviewed old plans for building a pedestrian bridge or underpass at Queen's Landing with a community group who had protested the light's removal. Three possible plans--an underpass, an bridge overhead LSD at its existing level, and lowering LSD to build a lower, less obstrusive bridge--each present engineering challenges. The underpass would be prone to flooding. A bridge over LSD would block the view of the Field Museum from the north, and putting a dip in the Drive to build a lower bridge, well, that's really complicated. None of the options would be cheap, and all would require months of construction headaches.
Chicagoist has a novel idea: put back the stoplight. The TMA's reason for removing it was to improve traffic flow, but that can be done with a light anyway. Chicagoist had a wise old high school math teacher who claimed that if lights were timed properly, a good driver could drive for miles in a city without ever seeing red (yes, we realize nostalgia about traffic management debates with our calculus teacher is lame, and we concede that point). Stoplight cycles can be set so that if a driver obeys the speed limit--this is where our theory gets weak--they can cruise into each intersection just as it turns green, especially on faster moving roads like the Drive. Anyone who has driven north on LaSalle from Wacker to North Avenue knows the feeling of power you get when you see that line of lights turn green one after another. It's like the city is winking at you. Of course, it only takes one cabbie turning left out of the center lane to screw it up, so maybe we're naive. But one little stoplight is much more practical than a very expensive piece of pork hanging over Lake Shore Drive.