Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Opinions Vary: Is New Congress Parkway Worth the Wait?

In case you missed it, a couple of weeks ago the major road construction of Congress Parkway was officially declared done.  This means that the gridlock caused by the construction might finally ease up.

What is still unclear is whether or not $20 million and two years of construction was worth the hassle.

We've heard many different opinions on the project and there doesn't seem to be much consistency.  For some "professional" perspective  Blair Kamin, the Chicago Tribune's architecture columnist, weighs in:
When the big revamp of Chicago's Congress Parkway was announced in 2010, it was something to get excited about. 
This was to be a road improvement project that was about more than roads. It was going to uplift the city around it. The idea was to transform the ugly drag strip that led into downtown from the Eisenhower Expressway into a smooth-flowing experience for drivers, an inviting stretch for pedestrians and a handsome gateway to Chicago. 
Yet two years and innumerable construction delays later, it's hard to muster enthusiasm for the nearly complete, $20 million undertaking, which was paid for with city, state and federal stimulus program funds. That's not because the job has failed to accomplish what it set out to do. Rather, it's because many of those things have been done and, still, no one would mistake the new Congress Parkway for the Champs-Elysees.
Kamin goes onto acknowledge that the pedestrian construction isn't quite done yet and that may in fact help make the project better.

When we look at the project we see it as an improvement.  While it might not be perfect it's a big step forward.  Congress was a wall of cars which was a beast to cross.  It was ugly and not dreadful to walk on or across.

While it doesn't appear that the amount of cars are going to decrease, at least the walk for pedestrians will be more pleasant (or at least that's what we expect since this part of the construction isn't completely done yet).  Still we have a hard time believing that people are going to want to sit down on the new park benches on Congress when cars are flying down the street.  It doesn't seem very serene...but maybe we're wrong.

Anyway, for those looking for a good summary post about the project check out this from the blog Grid Chicago.  It walks you through the changes of the parkway with before and after pictures.
Congress Parkway before Construction (via Grid Chicago)
Congress Parkway after construction
(via Grid Chicago)

So what do you think?  An improvement or just a wasted opportunity?

(Hat tip: SC &  SW!)


Cherise said...

What's a "waste opportunity"?

Do you mean an opportunity to create waste? Or an opportunity that was wasted?

Editor said...

Too soon to say. Once the lights are all installed and the landscaping done, we'll see. One of the main goals was traffic calming. I haven't been down there at rush hour lately to see if it's worked yet.

Chris said...

Certainly would have been a better idea if private contractors were hired. Project would have been done for half the cost in half the time.

BRENDAN said...

dont rile up the dems and occupiers Chris....

Steven said...

Not too certain on the Parkway. We'll wait till it is all done. But the bridge over the river? Fabulous and most welcome.

MarkChicago said...

I've driven it a few times and it seems really nice, much more pleasant than dealing with Roosevelt and it's issues.

Josh said...

Thus far, it's made no difference. If anything, things are (slightly) worse. That's probably partly because Wacker is still under construction, though, so more cars have to head east or exit at Canal, neither of which help congestion. Realistically, there's no easy way to deal with four lanes of expressway traffic getting dumped into a major city's downtown. Prettying it up doesn't matter much.

Mr Downtown said...

I don't understand Chris's comment. The entire project is being done by private contractors.

BRENDAN said...

told you Chris..

Chris said...

always gonna be people without a clue