Earlier this year, Las Vegas-based planner and engineer (“planer”) and YouTuber Ray Delehanty, aka CityNerd, did a great job of defining exactly what makes Chicago a great place to live. In the video “Affordable Cities: 10 U.S. Metro Areas With Low Liveability, Walkability, and Transit,” he examines “what are the most affordable cities. [cities over 250,000 people] Living in the U.S., but where good prices intersect with what city lovers care about: public amenities, culture, sports, walking, biking, and transit service. He put Chicago first.
However, in the new clip, Delehanty is equally astute in identifying one of them the worst About living in Chicago: the fact that we have our beautiful lakefront surrounded by an eight-lane highway. In the video “Highway Engineering Madness: 10 Waterfront Freeways That Need To Go (North American Edition),” he presents a gallery of cities that wasted their waterfronts to make driving easier, and Chicago once again tops the list.
“Waterfronts and Riverfronts: In the world’s truly great cities, these are precious, special places, great views, great recreation, dense housing, tourism (maybe too much tourism), but really, you I’m all find something,” says City Nerd, showing inspiring images of Rio and (I think) Copenhagen.
“For some cities, they’re a very convenient place to put a freeway,” he adds. “From a highway engineering point of view, it makes sense to locate highways along coasts and rivers: coasts are generally flat and require no structures or tunnels, and the natural depth of a river, lake or ocean ‘fences reduce intersection collisions.’ It’s a traffic engineer’s dream. But traffic engineering doesn’t always (or usually) take into account the competing goals that beaches may have, such as active and recreational uses or mixed-use development.
Here’s his hall of shame in this section:
- Gardiner Expressway (Toronto)
- I-278/Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE) (Brooklyn Heights)
- I-5 (Portland)
- Storrow Drive (Boston)
- I-5 (Sacramento)
- I-787 (Albania)
- 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, DuSable Lake Shore Drive. “It’s kind of like a tree-lined avenue,” he says. “Hey, it’s a freeway, not a freeway. But make no mistake, it’s beyond the short segment that works [by] Millennium and Grant parks, this freeway. What puts [Dusable] Lake Shore Drive at the top is the only land use. On the east side of the road, up and down the coast, and on the west side is tons of density and great views, a wonderful green belt of beaches and parks. It runs almost entirely across the city to maximize noise, air pollution and the physical barrier to the lakefront.
He noted that at times, tunnels under the highway provide access to the embankment for people on foot and on bicycles. “I don’t know who would be happy to use it.”
“Chicagoans, on balance, do what they have [DuSable] Is Lake Shore Drive bothering you? Delekhani asked. “Or have you convinced yourself it’s not so bad? I’m interested in hearing from people who have had to live with it.
The good news is that we don’t do it you have to live with an eight-lane vehicle. The North DuSable Lake Shore Drive reconstruction project could turn two of the eight lanes into bus-only lanes — if enough residents make it clear they prefer it. And many advocates are pursuing the bold vision of turning the drive into human-scale boulevards, making redundant mixed-use corridors more space for transit, walking, biking and green space.
It’s time for Chicagoans to stop allowing our massive lakefront freeway to serve as a national embarrassment to our city.