To the Editor:

We have deep concerns about the costly plan to widen a portion of South Lake Shore Drive in Jackson Park, close Cornell Drive, and disrupt other existing and functional traffic patterns. The City has made this proposal merely to accommodate the current site design for the Obama Presidential Center. 

The Obama Foundation is upfront that its plan to remove Cornell Drive is not necessary but rather is its choice, made to enhance a South Side Museum Campus setting for the OPC. A high-quality Museum Campus requires proximity, not uninterrupted green space or never having to walk across a street.  After all, Chicago is a big, exciting city, not a pastoral suburb. A vibrant Museum Campus can be established without the unnecessary cost and disruptions now proposed by the Obama Foundation to remove Cornell Drive.

The removal of Cornell Drive forces the Foundation to propose widening Lake Shore Drive to give the illusion that commuter drive times would be protected. But enlarging high speed roadways (as Lake Shore Drive has become) and eliminating arterials (like Cornell Drive) almost always cause the exact opposite — more cars, more congestion, more wasted time.  An urban traffic version of a heart attack.  Plus, both of these proposals add up to more negatives for locals, such as the loss of on-street parking spaces, diversion of traffic onto side streets, and slicing off of portions of Jackson Park.  And the admitted taxpayer cost for this discretionary roadwork is very high: $174 million at the least (2018 estimate).  

Reconsideration of the current OPC site plan is urgently needed. A vibrant, affordable Museum Campus can be established without the unnecessary cost and disruptions now proposed by the Obama Foundation to widen Lake Shore Drive and remove Cornell Drive.

Brenda Nelms and Jack Spicer

Co-Presidents, Jackson Park Watch

(2) comments

Ross Petersen

I agree, the removal of Cornell Drive will cause terrible traffic delays, and now, Hayes Drive will be impassable. I would suggest returning Cornell Drive to the narrower, original version with two lanes (not six), and adding pedestrian underpasses, as we did at Lake Shore Drive. I would suggest an underpass at the Midway, and another at Hayes Drive.

Rather than redesigning this Park, pouring millions into a mid-rise building, and four others, I'd suggest moving the Obama Center out of Jackson Park, entirely. This could be transformative to a neighborhood in the City; The effect on the Park is detrimental.

Parks are public spaces, belonging to All. We prefer to maintain them in a natural form, trees, lawns, nature. This center is contradictory to what he did, while in office.

Significant opposition remains.


Well put Ross, Jack, and Brenda

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