As reported on Streetsblog, Illinois DOT is eyeing a $410M expansion of the Circle Interchange adjacent to downtown Chicago to improve capacity (for vehicles, of course) and address deficiencies in the existing design. That’s an eye-popping sum of money. Or it should be. But unfortunately, interventions of this scale and nature rarely get the scrutiny devoted to much smaller projects that don’t explicitly benefit automobile traffic.
Have you ever thought about how much other infrastructure we could build for that $410M? I did a few simple calculations and here’s what I’ve come up with. Feel free to share yours in the comments:
2,900 miles of protected bike lanes (ala Kinzie St) at $140,000 per mile (cost according to Gabe Klein via the Sun Times). That’s enough to cover more than half of the city of Chicago with PBLs. And when I say half, I mean all road types from quiet residential lanes to busy commercial thoroughfares. Not that I would advocate for this.
5.5 more Bloomingdale Trails at $75M for the estimated cost of the trail (probably an outdated estimate, but you get the point).
Or my personal favorite: An unbroken 20-mile system of elevated pathways running within Chicago’s extensive river system. That would be enough to connect the Loop with the start of the North Shore Channel Trail at Lawrence Ave and the North Branch Trail at Devon Ave (~12 miles), and connect the Loop to Cicero Ave via the CSSC. This estimate’s on a shakier foundation – CDOT estimates $10M for a 0.5-mile elevated structure between Irving Park and Addison, with an underbridge at Addison. In any case, the point is that’s a lot of new high-quality bike/pedestrian path.
I realize there might be a legitimate reason to update the Circle Interchange. This post isn’t really intended to rail against IDOT’s plan, so much as to point out that what we spend on bikes and pedestrians is a pittance compared to the sums of money that get thrown around for cars. And all of this despite study after study after study extolling the benefits of active transportation.