Project will Ease Congestion, Modernize Traffic Flow, Enhance Safety and Improve Loop Connections to Neighborhoods
Starting this week, commuting around the city just got easier with the launch of the Loop Link, a major modernization of the downtown transportation network that will make it easier, safer and more reliable for commuters to travel to and through the downtown area. Loop Link will provide a balanced separation of CTA bus, bike and regular traffic with dedicated lanes on Washington, Madison, Clinton and Canal. The new configuration will improve reliability and speed for six CTA bus routes that travel the corridor and extend benefits to neighborhoods throughout the city where these routes originate.
“Loop Link is about getting Chicagoans from point A to point B quickly but more importantly, safely,” Mayor Emanuel said. “With each route, we build a stronger economy by providing direct access to jobs and a stronger link to our neighborhoods.”
CDOT, the CTA and Loop Link stakeholders launched an outreach and education campaign this week ahead of the Dec. 20th launch to familiarize transit riders, bicyclists, motorists and pedestrians with the features of Loop Link.
“CDOT has been working very hard to wrap up major work on Loop Link and deliver on schedule the benefits of this project to Chicago’s bus riders, bicyclists, pedestrians and motorists,” CDOT Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld said. “We’ve been talking about addressing downtown Chicago’s traffic congestion for decades now, and thanks to Mayor Emanuel’s leadership, we are finally getting the job done, improving reliability and safety for all modes of transportation in this major corridor.”
“Loop Link will provide quicker and more reliable bus service to CTA customers,” said CTA President Dorval R. Carter, Jr. “This project will improve their transit experience and may attract new customers who want an affordable, convenient way to get downtown and across the Loop.”
“Loop Link will be a welcome relief for anyone who has experienced the congestion and gridlock in Chicago’s Loop, particularly when traveling east or west,” said U.S. Senator Dick Durbin. “This modern transportation upgrade will make for a safer and easier commute for buses, bicyclists, and drivers. I am a proud long-time supporter of this project and the $24 million in federal funding that helped make this new bus service possible.”
“Chicago is one of the world's busiest transit hubs, serving millions of people every year,” said U.S. Senator Mark Kirk. “Returning taxpayer funds to the city to make everyday transportation easier for millions every year is the right thing to do.”
“Investments in transportation infrastructure are key to growing the region’s economy and helping Chicago compete globally,” said U.S. Representative Mike Quigley. “Too often, federal infrastructure investments focus solely on highway projects, but I’ve been proud to push for a multimodal approach to infrastructure funding. Support for Chicago’s transit system and pedestrian and cycling infrastructure can help increase safety, improve the livability of our community and solidify Chicago as a national leader in sustainable transportation. Mayor Emanuel has been a great ally in this cause, and I look forward to seeing the Loop Link in action soon.”
Improvements for bus customers
Loop Link features a number of improvements for CTA bus customers, including red bus-only lanes, enhanced signage clearly delineating the CTA bus lanes and early traffic signals for buses at key intersections, all of which improve bus speeds and service efficiency and eliminate bottlenecks at congested portions of the Loop.
The project also provides distinctive, more comfortable bus stations with large canopies for improved weather protection, raised platforms for easier boarding, CTA Bus Tracker screens and more seating for customers.
Buses using Loop Link provide critical connections to multiple Chicago neighborhoods, Union Station, Ogilvie Transportation Center, CTA subways and Navy Pier. More than 1,000 CTA bus trips will traverse the Loop Link corridor each day.
Improving service reliability downtown is expected to have a positive ripple effect on the portions of these routes outside downtown, benefiting neighborhoods throughout the City, which include South Shore, Little Village, Austin and Logan Square, among others.
The six routes are the #J14, #20, #56, #60, #124 and #157. A seventh route, the #19, provides service to and from the United Center on event days, such as Bulls and Blackhawks home games. Also of note: The routes for the #J14 and #124, will be modified in the eastbound direction in order to take full advantage of the Loop Link corridor. Beginning Sunday, the #J14 Jeffery Jump route will run on Washington instead of Monroe between Clinton and Michigan Avenue; and the #124 Navy Pier route will run on Washington instead of Wacker between North Wacker and Michigan Avenue.
Improvements and changes for motorists
For cars and other motor vehicles, two general traffic lanes will remain for motor vehicle traffic through the Loop. To improve traffic flow, Loop Link includes 20 new left turn and right turn arrows at key intersections. Dedicated turn signals will increase turning capacity and reduce conflicts with pedestrians and bicyclists.
City officials urge motorists to pay close attention to lane markings and new signage as they become accustomed to the new, modernized traffic configuration. Cars, except for emergency vehicles, are prohibited from driving in the red CTA bus-only lanes.
To prevent conflicts at the locations where motorists must cross the CTA bus lane to access a right turn lane, CTA buses will have a “queue jump,” or a special traffic signal before general traffic at the previous intersection. This will allow buses to cross the intersection first; motorists will then be able to cross the CTA bus lane behind any buses. Motorists will also have a protected right turn arrow and bicyclists will have a dedicated bicycle signal, eliminating conflicts between right turning cars and either bicyclists or pedestrians.
In addition, right turns are restricted at four locations where there are relatively few turning vehicles and nearby alternatives: Washington to southbound LaSalle; Madison to northbound Dearborn; Madison to northbound Wacker; and Jackson to southbound Canal.
Benefits for bicycle commuters
Loop Link features protected bike lanes on Washington and Clinton for easier, safer bicycle commutes, including an eastbound bike lane against the southern curb on Washington that is protected from auto and bus traffic. A two-way bike lane has been installed on Clinton, similar to what currently exists on Dearborn Street. A westbound protected bike lane will be installed on Randolph in 2016. City officials advise bicyclists to pay close attention to the bicycle signals, pavement markings and new safety signage on the new green bike lanes. Bicyclists are required to yield to pedestrians who are crossing the bike lane.
Improved environment for pedestrians
Loop Link provides a more comfortable walking environment for pedestrians. Removing bus stations from sidewalks provides people with more room to walk, and 19 crosswalks have been shortened to make it safer and easier to cross streets. City officials urge pedestrians to avoid walking or standing in the green bike lanes and to obey signals when crossing at intersections for their own safety and to respect the dedicated turn signals for cars.
Extensive support for Loop Link
The effort to tackle downtown congestion and improve safety has long been supported by a number of business and civic organizations and downtown stakeholders, including the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC), the Active Transportation Alliance, the Chicago Community Trust and the Chicago Loop Alliance.
Much of the civic work and advocacy for implementing the Bus Rapid Transit concepts in Chicago, including Loop Link has been supported by the Rockefeller Foundation. The Foundation has been committed to the success of the city’s effort to address downtown congestion and make bus service more appealing, by providing support for technical analysis, education, branding and communications.
“Chicago’s investment in bus rapid transit will better connect people to the many opportunities that the city offers. The Rockefeller Foundation is proud to have supported the City's efforts to bring high-quality BRT services to Chicago residents,” said Michael Myers, managing director of The Rockefeller Foundation. “Reliable and efficient public transportation attracts new generations of skilled workers and fosters a more inclusive economy, where opportunities are broadly shared across the city.”
More improvements to come
Work will continue to improve Loop Link and other major downtown projects following Sunday’s launch, including completing final touches on some of the Loop Link stations after the Dec. 20th launch. Seven stations will be open Dec. 20, with the eighth station on Madison east of Wabash expected to open in January. A new westbound bike lane will be installed on Randolph Street in 2016. Work on the Canal Street leg of Loop Link is scheduled to be completed in spring 2016.
In addition, work is continuing on the Union Station Transit Center, a new off-street CTA bus-boarding center just south of Union Station that will help relieve traffic congestion around the train station that serves 120,000 people each day.
Another major ongoing downtown transportation project that will continue through 2016 is the new Washington-Wabash CTA station that will replace two century-old stations at Madison and Randolph with a single state-of-the art, fully accessible station with wider platforms.
For more information on Loop Link, go to www.transitchicago.com/looplink
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