The Campaign for a Free and Clear Lakefront is a grassroots coalition to remove Lakeshore Drive from Grant Park, and eventually the entire Chicago shoreline.

Drive intrudes on Grant Park's solitude

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 Chicago Sun-Times Letters January 26, 2001

"Take part in the planning of Chicago's front yard!" urges Chicago Park District promotional material for the Grant Park Framework Plan public forums. Although the forums are an important opportunity for the public to direct the future of the Chicago's lakefront centerpiece, it appears that the Park District is shying away from correcting Grant Park's largest design flaw.

Any serious plan to improve the park must confront the eight-lane superhighway that severs the park from the Lake Michigan shoreline. After all, who wants a freeway in their front yard?

Thanks to the vision and bold action of Chicago forefathers such as Daniel Burnham, Montgomery Ward and the Canal Commission of 1836, we enjoy a downtown lakefront that is open and largely free of encumbrances. Unfortunately, Lake Shore Drive has been widened over the years to accommodate more private automobile traffic, imposing pollution, noise and physical danger upon Chicagoans seeking the quiet refuge of Lake Michigan's shoreline.

So far, the only acknowledgment of the problems posed by Lake Shore Drive is a proposal for a pedestrian overpass near Buckingham Fountain. The overpass would be an additional lakefront eyesore that does nothing to eliminate the noise, air pollution and unsightliness of Lake Shore Drive, and does too little to improve access to the shoreline.

It's time to think big. Grant Park is not only the city's front yard, but also an international showplace. The only real solution is to reroute Lake Shore Drive's traffic out of the park.

Much of the traffic on the Drive continues through the park and could be easily diverted to the Kennedy Expy., which is less than a mile away to the west. Lake Shore Drive traffic could be rerouted on Interstate 55 to the Kennedy Expy. just south of McCormick Place.

Transit upgrades--trolleys and buses--would increase access to Grant Park and eliminate congestion and other problems associated with a superhighway bisecting the park.

There are precedents for a bold move such as rerouting Lake Shore Drive. In the early 1970s, Portland,Ore., removed the Harbor View Highway to create McCall Park on the shore of the Willamette River.Traffic was rerouted to a nearby expressway. Similar to Grant Park, McCall Park is a downtown park that hosts events and serves as the city's front yard, but it has the advantage of unencumbered access to the shoreline.

And when considering precedents, let's not forget the rerouting of Lake Shore Drive that created the Museum Campus on the southern edge of Grant Park. The Museum Campus has garnered rave reviews by creating easy access to the shoreline and has become a peaceful oasis for pedestrians and cyclists. The success of the Museum Campus could be easily extended north to the rest of Grant Park.

Bold moves take vision and courage. At 7 p.m. Tuesday, the Park District's design team will present plans for public comment. It's time for us to say no to little plans that have no magic to stir our blood. It's time to remove Lake Shore Drive from Grant Park and reclaim our lakefront.

Michael Burton, secretary
Campaign for a Free and Clear Lakefront