Median roadway construction designed to create an escape route for drivers potentially stranded on North Lake Shore Drive will begin Monday, according to the Chicago Department of Transportation.
The project involves installing two openings in the median at Armitage Avenue and Schiller Street, CDOT said.
The openings, using movable concrete barrier sections, will provide emergency-only turnaround access to northbound and southbound lanes of Lake Shore Drive, officials said.
The median will remain closed, except in emergencies. In extreme weather or other emergencies, the movable barriers will be repositioned by heavy trucks to open the median.
During construction that starts Monday, weather permitting, the inside lanes of Lake Shore Drive between Armitage and Goethe Street will be closed in both directions, CDOT said. Three lanes will be open southbound and northbound.
Armitage and Schiller were selected for median opening locations because they are prone to snow drifting and have limited emergency access, CDOT officials said.
Hundreds of vehicles were stranded in high snow on Lake Shore Drive during the record snowstorm Feb. 1-2. The emergency rescue process was slow and the escape options limited for drivers on the drive, according to a city analysis of the 100-year blizzard. Some automobile drivers and CTA bus passengers who huddled in their respective vehicles for many hours later said they felt like they were left for dead.
In response, the city of Chicago implemented several action plans. They included developing a coordinated plan to close Lake Shore Drive to traffic early and evacuate all vehicles if threatening conditions are expected. Under a quick-response scenario, the two median openings on North Lake Shore Drive would enable buses, cars and emergency vehicles to turn around, officials said.
New protocols were also established to reroute CTA buses away from and off the drive as severe conditions develop.
The implemented recommendations also included a more effective citywide notification distribution list, recognizing that a successful emergency action plan depends heavily on how quickly accurate information is communicated.
Construction is set to be completed by late November, CDOT said.