WBEZ | Western Avenue http://www.wbez.org/tags/western-avenue Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Last days for the Western-Belmont overpass http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-04/last-days-western-belmont-overpass-106677 <p><p>The City of Chicago is planning to <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/cdot/supp_info/western_avenue_improvementprojectwesternviaductatbelmont.html">tear down the Western Avenue overpass at Belmont-Clybourn</a>. The junction of the three streets will once again be a normal, at-grade intersection.</p><p>Back in 1902 <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/laugh-your-troubles-away-105619">the Riverview amusement park</a> opened at the northwest corner of Western and Belmont. The park drew thousands of patrons each day, most of whom arrived on streetcars&mdash;one of the lines was even named Riverview-Larrabee. Private vehicles of any type were rare.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/04-22--view from Belmont.jpg" title="Western Avenue crossing over Belmont" /></div></div><p>By the 1960s more and more people were driving cars. Traffic around Riverview was congested.&nbsp; The modern solution to the problem was the Western Avenue overpass.</p><p>Fifty years ago, the city was in love with fly-over intersections. Similar viaducts were being built at Archer-Ashland and at Ashland-Pershing. Dozens more were in the talking stage. They were mini-expressways, an efficient way to move traffic.</p><p>The Western Avenue overpass opened in 1962. It did its job well for five years. Then Riverview closed. The new businesses that went up on its site generated significantly less traffic. And when a police station was built at the Western-Belmont corner, the viaduct actually impeded its operations.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/04-22--up%20the%20ramp.JPG" title="Southern approach to the overpass" /></div><p>In 1962 few people had complained about aesthetics. Once the overpass was no longer needed, critics discovered it was ugly. It blighted the neighborhood. Besides, the traffic lanes on the viaduct itself were too narrow.</p><p>Demolition costs were high. So for decades, there&rsquo;s been a death-watch at Western-Belmont&mdash;a death watch on a viaduct. How long before the thing would fall apart, and the city would be forced to tear it down? Now it looks like this is finally going to happen.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/04-22--Loop view.JPG" title="A view that will soon be history" /></div></div><p>Partly because of the Western-Belmont controversy, overpasses have gone out of fashion in Chicago. The city recently announced a project to reconfigure the Elston-Fullerton-Damen intersection. &nbsp;Before a plan to reroute Elston was chosen, there was a proposal to run Fullerton through as an underpass. I don&rsquo;t believe that a viaduct was even considered.</p><p>I have no idea how tearing down the Western Avenue overpass will affect traffic in the area. We&rsquo;ll all have to wait and see. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 06 May 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-04/last-days-western-belmont-overpass-106677 When Western Avenue was Woodrow Wilson Road http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-04/when-western-avenue-was-woodrow-wilson-road-106749 <p><p>As any true Chicagoan knows, Western Avenue is the longest street in the city.&nbsp;Would you believe it was once named Woodrow Wilson Road?</p><p>Woodrow Wilson, 28th President of the United States, died on February 3, 1924.&nbsp;He&rsquo;d been an icon of the Progressive movement and led the country through the First World War.&nbsp;The Chicago City Council wanted a suitable way to honor him.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/WoodrowWilsonVersailles.jpg" style="width: 250px; height: 365px; float: right;" title="President Woodrow Wilson (Wikipedia)" /></div><p>A few years before, after Theodore Roosevelt died, the aldermen changed 12th Street to Roosevelt Road.&nbsp;What was good for a dead Republican president should be good for a dead Democratic one. Since the city already had a Wilson Avenue, it was decided to use President Wilson&rsquo;s full name on his street.</p><p>It&rsquo;s not clear why the lawmakers chose Western Avenue for renaming.&nbsp;On April 25, 1924 they voted to re-designated the street as Woodrow Wilson Road.</p><p>The 12th-to-Roosevelt change had caused little controversy.&nbsp;But now the property owners along Western objected to the expense involved in renaming their street. Within a few weeks they&rsquo;d gathered over 10,000 signatures asking that the old name be restored.</p><p>The&nbsp;<em>Tribune</em> sent its inquiring reporter to the corner of &ldquo;Washington Boulevard and Woodrow Wilson Road&rdquo; to gauge public opinion.&nbsp;Most people said the change didn&rsquo;t make any difference to them.&nbsp;One young lady&nbsp;did say&nbsp;she favored the new name because &ldquo;it sounds lots nicer, [and] we see enough old things around here.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/04-25--Woodrow%20Wilson%20Street%20%28Detroit%29.jpg" style="width: 250px; height: 167px; float: left;" title="Woodrow Wilson Street, Detroit" /></div><p>The property owners prevailed.&nbsp;Less than a month after its original action, the council ordered the&nbsp;street changed back to Western Avenue.&nbsp;A&nbsp;proposal to rename Navy Pier after Wilson went nowhere.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>In 1927 the council changed Robey Street to Damen Avenue, despite resident protests. When Crawford Avenue was renamed Pulaski Road in 1933, that set off a battle that lasted 19 years before Pulaski was legally accepted.&nbsp;More recently, a&nbsp;proposal to change part of Evergreen Avenue to Algren Street was abandoned in the face of local resistance.&nbsp;</p><p>The lesson seems to be that changing a street name will always&nbsp;rub some people the wrong way. That&rsquo;s why the city came up with the idea of honorary streets.&nbsp;</p><p><em>Note: The successful move to change Woodrow Wilson Road back to Western Avenue was spearheaded by Alderman Joseph Kostner.&nbsp;Today the city remembers him with an official street named Kostner Avenue.</em></p></p> Thu, 25 Apr 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-04/when-western-avenue-was-woodrow-wilson-road-106749 This was Chicago: A major street in 1914 and 2012 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-11/was-chicago-major-street-1914-and-2012-103786 <p><p>My e-mails tell me you are having fun with the old Chicago photos. Many of the places are greatly changed, but someone is always able to identify the location.</p><p>I recently came across the two pictures below. They&#39;re both from 1914, and show a major street within the Chicago city limits, on the Southwest Side.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/11-16-1914a.jpg" title="1914--location 'A' (Library of Congress)" /></div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/11-16-1914-b.jpg" title="1914--location 'B' (Library of Congress)" /></div></div><p>I started driving a car in 1968, so I got the job of being my Grandma Price&#39;s chauffeur. Every so often, we&#39;d drive down a street and she&#39;d shake her head in amazement. Then she&#39;d tell me about how she remembered when it had been a &quot;cowpath.&quot;</p><p>Grandma grew up on the Northwest Side. She probably wasn&#39;t familiar with the sites in the pictures. They were taken on Western Avenue, at a time when the streetcars went only as far south at 79th Street. The line was extended in 1931, and development followed.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Western-116th%20%282012%29.JPG" title="2012--location 'A'--Western Avenue at 116th Street, view north" /></div><p>Without the caption, I don&#39;t see how anyone today could have identified location &quot;A.&quot; I suspect the people of 1914 could not have done it. Without any landmarks, most country roads look the same.</p><p>However, I did consider using location &quot;B&quot; for the &quot;Where in Chicago?&quot; quiz. There is a clue to the site in the 1914 photo.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Western-87th (2012).JPG" title="2012--location 'B'--Western Avenue at 87th Street, view north" /></div><p>Notice that the auto in the picture is climbing a hill. That&#39;s the clue. There aren&#39;t many hills in Chicago.</p><p>In 2012 the hill is still there, and location &quot;B&quot; still appears somewhat rural. The east side of Western Avenue (photo right) is forest preserve. The west side is the Beverly Country Club. The highest point within the Chicago city limits is on the 2nd tee of the golf course.</p><p>Next week there will be another &quot;Where in Chicago?&quot; quiz. Good luck!</p></p> Fri, 16 Nov 2012 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-11/was-chicago-major-street-1914-and-2012-103786 $7.3 million OKed for downtown ‘bus rapid transit’ http://www.wbez.org/story/story/city-devotes-73-million-downtown-brt-96580 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2012-February/2012-02-21/BRT_Flickr_.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="Transmilenio" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-20/Transmilenio.jpg" style="margin: 9px 18px 6px 1px; float: left; width: 374px; height: 247px;" title="Bogotá, Colombia, has the world’s most advanced bus-rapid-transit system. (flickr/Oscar Amaya)" />Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s administration has decided to channel more than $7.3&nbsp;million in tax increment financing toward a &ldquo;bus rapid transit&rdquo; line downtown, according to transportation and economic-development officials.</p><p>The money will combine with an announced $24.6&nbsp;million from the Federal Transit Administration to speed up trips between Union Station, the Ogilvie Transportation Center, several Chicago Transit Authority lines, Streeterville and Navy Pier.</p><p>&ldquo;About 50&nbsp;percent of the commuters who come to work every day in Chicago&rsquo;s central business district arrive by bus or train,&rdquo; said Peter Skosey, vice president of the Metropolitan Planning Council, a nonprofit group working on the project. &ldquo;If they&rsquo;re getting off at those Metra stations in the West Loop, it&rsquo;s quite a hike over to North Michigan Avenue or even just to State Street. So this really facilitates the use of transit for downtown Chicago.&rdquo;</p><p>Bus rapid transit, known as BRT, delivers many benefits of rail at a fraction of the cost. The most advanced BRT systems have sprung up in Bogotá, Colombia; Guangzhou, China; Johannesburg, South Africa; and Ahmedabad, India.</p><p>BRT remains largely unknown in the United States. Modest systems are running in Cleveland, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Las Vegas and Eugene, Oregon.</p><p>In 2008, Mayor Richard M. Daley&rsquo;s administration said it was moving on a BRT pilot project. But the city bungled an application for $153&nbsp;million in federal funding for it.</p><p>Emanuel&rsquo;s mayoral transition plan last year promised a &ldquo;full bus rapid transit pilot&rdquo; within three years. The pilot, according to the plan, will include &ldquo;dedicated bus lanes, signal preemption, prepaid boarding or on-board fare verification, multiple entry and exits points on the buses, limited stops, and street-level boarding.&rdquo;</p><p>The Chicago Department of Transportation is keeping lips tight about its design of the downtown line, known as both the &ldquo;East-West Transit Corridor&rdquo; and &ldquo;Central Loop BRT.&rdquo; It&rsquo;s not clear the design will include many of the timesavers listed in Emanuel&rsquo;s plan. A CDOT plan announced in 2010 would remove cars from some traffic lanes, rig key stoplights to favor the buses, improve sidewalks, install bicycle lanes and build specially branded bus stops equipped with GPS-powered &ldquo;next bus&rdquo; arrival signs.</p><p>The CTA, meanwhile, has a separate $1.6&nbsp;million federal grant to plan BRT options along a 21-mile stretch of Western Avenue. Another $11&nbsp;million from the feds is funding bus improvements this year along the South Side&rsquo;s Jeffrey Boulevard. That line, though billed as BRT, will lack many features for speeding up trips.</p></p> Tue, 21 Feb 2012 11:56:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/story/city-devotes-73-million-downtown-brt-96580 Rahm vows bus rapid transit, but can he deliver? http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-08-23/rahm-promises-brt-can-he-deliver-90926 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-August/2011-08-23/Transmilenio.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>All this week, WBEZ is looking at <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/first-100-rahm-emanuels-first-100-days-chicago-mayor" target="_blank">Rahm Emanuel’s first 100 days as Chicago mayor</a>.</p><p>One of Emanuel’s pledges is to push for the creation of the city’s first bus-rapid-transit line. The idea behind BRT is to deliver the benefits of rail at a fraction of the cost. BRT shortens travel times through dedicated bus lanes, pre-paid boarding that’s level with station platforms, and traffic signals that favor the buses.</p><p>WBEZ’s West Side bureau reporter <a href="http://www.wbez.org/staff/chip-mitchell" target="_blank">Chip Mitchell</a> gives us a progress report on Emanuel’s ambitious plan.<br> &nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 23 Aug 2011 16:49:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-08-23/rahm-promises-brt-can-he-deliver-90926