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Bucktown's Intersection From Hell Has Finally Been Revamped

By Emma G. Gallegos in News on Aug 14, 2017 4:28PM

Before (left) and after (right) aerial photos of the nightmarish Damen, Elston and Fullston avenues intersections (Courtesy of the Mayor's Office)

Mayor Rahm Emanuel cut the ribbon today at the once-nightmarish intersection of Damen, Elston and Fullerton avenues. Where once there was one congested 6-way intersection that caused headaches for everyone, there are now three distinct intersections.

The intersection used to include long wait times for motorists; it was one of the city's most dangerous; and cyclists weren't fans either. A previous alderman complained that the intersection was the main thing that constituents called about. Construction had been in the works since May of last year.

The intersection of north-south Damen Avenue and east-west Fullerton Avenue was once bisected by Elston Avenue. But now Elston intersects with Damen just north of the old intersection before curving southward and intersecting with Fullerton.

All the streets in the project were resurfaced. Damen was widened, which will allow more cars through and offer more space for cyclists. The new stretch of Elston Avenue includes protected bike lanes in both directions. The sidewalk along Fullerton was widened as well.

"More than 70,000 vehicles pass through this intersection each day, and at peak travel times it used to cause major inconvenience for motorists as well as pedestrians and bicyclists," CDOT Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld said, in a statement. "We implemented a creative solution that has rerouted Elston and synchronized traffic signals to relieve congestion, improving safety for everyone who travels through the area."

The old section of Elston has been named N. Elston Court, and it's now more of a side-street than a main thoroughfare. There are traffic-calming bumpouts should any drivers have missed the memo.

Here's what it looks like on the ground:

The project required some businesses to shift, including the Midtown Chicago Athletic Club, which used the project as a springboard for a full revamp. WhirlyBall relocated nearby, and Vienna Beef moved its manufacturing facility and is reconfiguring the space near the intersection, according to the Mayor. There is new space for commercial development on the north and south side of Fullerton east of Damen.

"For decades the intersection at Damen, Elston and Fullerton has been one of the most dangerous and congested in Chicago," Emanuel said, in a statement. He also hailed the project as bringing economic benefits to the area: "This major project is a win-win, it has created jobs and economic opportunities across the city and delivered a fully rebuilt and redesigned intersection that is moving traffic more smoothly and safely."

The project cost $22.5 million and it was paid for by federal, state and local government funding, according to the Mayor's Office. It was also originally included in the North Branch North TIF Redevelopment Plan.

Here are some shots from the intersection's official reopening: