The Damen, Elston, Fullerton intersection was once one of the most heavily congested, high-level accident locations in Chicago. A previously completed intersection improvement evaluation report detailed several alternatives for improving operations and safety. This study initially concluded that an underpass carrying through traffic in both directions on Fullerton Avenue was the recommended alternative. However, changes to area development plans meant that the initial study and recommended underpass needed a second look to determine whether it was the best path forward to address congestion, safety and cost.
In response to these changes in development plans, the design team conducted a value planning exercise in conjunction with the City to evaluate the recommended underpass option. The exercise resulted in several additional options that eliminated the need for the tunnel, which was a costly and disruptive solution.
An at-grade re-route of two legs of the existing six-legged intersection was identified that essentially created three traditional intersections with substantially improved levels of service and reduced delays. These improvements were accomplished with additional right-of-way width through land acquisition and building removal. The selected alternative was also less costly than the underpass solution, with better traffic improvement. The project was well accepted by the local community and there was a great turnout of stakeholders at the public hearing, with a new request to add bike lanes to Damen Avenue.
Benesch completed a Phase I report to evaluate the originally identified alternative, as well as the final design plans for the project. The intersection reroute’s design ultimately included three traffic signals and fiber optic interconnect, protected bike lanes, pedestrian accommodations and redevelopment of the abandoned section of Elston Avenue. The project also required thousands of feet of new watermains, combined sewers, and a storm sewer separation/re-route.