From Parkway Boulevard to Interstate Highway; Massive Changes Considered for North Lake Shore Drive

Since first established over 80 years ago as a parkway boulevard along Chicago’s lakefront, planners have struggled to strike a balance between increasing traffic volumes and preserving the character and feel of this legendary, scenic roadway. While Lake Shore Drive has been updated and improved throughout the decades, the City of Chicago has always voiced an interest in remaining sensitive to the character of the historic boulevard parkway along the route.

Since first established over 80 years ago as a parkway boulevard along Chicago’s lakefront, planners have struggled to strike a balance between increasing traffic volumes and preserving the character and feel of this legendary, scenic roadway. While Lake Shore Drive has been updated and improved throughout the decades, the City of Chicago has always voiced an interest in remaining sensitive to the character of the historic boulevard parkway along the route.

The current proposal from the Chicago Department of Transportation represents a radical departure from the past and would completely overhaul North Lake Shore Drive from Navy Pier to its northern terminus at Hollywood Avenue. The estimated $2 billion to $3 billion overhaul is being referred to as “Redefine the Drive”. While still in the early planning phases, one primary objective would be to bring North Lake Shore Drive up to current highway grade standards. According to the design team, another stated objective is to increase traffic flow at peak rush hours, between 7:30 and 8:30 am on weekdays. To help pay for the cost, CDOT is considering adding possible “tollway” features to Lake Shore Drive.