City Unveils Bold New Reconfiguration Plan For Damen-Elston-Fullerton Intersection

Work For Proposed Elston Bypass Could Start In 2013

Aeriel rendering of proposed Damen-Elston-Fullerton reroute

It’s one of the most congested, confounding and accident prone intersections in the city.

Every day an average of 70,000 drivers get delayed and frustrated by the asphalt tentacles of the six corner, three way monster of an intersection of Damen-Elston-Fullerton, on the western edge of Lincoln Park.

“Our office gets more calls from drivers about this intersection than anything else,” says 32nd Ward Alderman Scott Waguespack saying the traffic has gotten worse over the past few years. “Due to the vast amount of development that went on in past years, all these people (in the ward) get to the highway using this intersection.”

But Wednesday afternoon, the city formally announced its plans for a bold and dramatic reconfiguration of this troublesome intersection at a public hearing held at the Bucktown-Wicker Park Library at 1701 N. Milwaukee Ave.

The plan calls for detouring Elston Ave. north of Fullerton and rerouting it west and eventually dog-legging south until it ultimately links back with Elston’s current diagonal path on the other side of Fullerton.

The idea to address the issues of this problematic intersection has been discussed for years, but after Ald. Waguespack came into office in 2006, he made it one of his priorities. Now after several years of discussions, planning and meetings with the Chicago Department of Transportation and the public, the plans for the intersection were unveiled at this open house.

This plan to streamline a chaotic six-corner intersection into three distinct four corner intersections was chosen over competing plans to build an overpass or an underpass on Fullerton.

While the other plans would require two to three years of construction and not necessarily solve all the problems with the status quo, this proposal would only require a year of road work.

But, the proposed reroute would require the city to acquire and demolish select buildings and displace several businesses in the path of the proposed Elston bypass. This includes cutting into a building owned by Midtown Tennis Club at Damen & Elston, land owned by Vienna Beef at 2501 N. Damen, and completely demolishing the buildings currently housing Whirly Ball at 1880 W. Fullerton and Dunkin’ Donuts located at 1927 W. Fullerton.

“Of course the businesses affected were disappointed,” said Chriss Wuellner of CDOT. “However, we will be able to provide relocation assistance.”

Waguespack plans to work with displaced businesses to try to relocate them within the ward or nearby.

“I’d like to keep them in the area,” said Waguespack.

Ald. Waguespack, along with CDOT staff and personnel from Benesch, the engineering firm hired for the project, cited safety concerns and traffic delays as the two major reasons for the necessitating the project.

This location is consistently in the city’s top 10 intersections for collisions, ranking as high as number two over the past decade. The massive intersection which sees nearly a half million vehicles per week, logged 90 crashes just last year, or just under two per week.

In addition, due to the six legs of the intersection, the short distances between lights which lead to backups up to a half-mile in either direction, insufficient turning radii for large trucks, delays getting through the Damen-Elston-Fullerton intersection can take up to seven minutes at peak traffic times.

Project planners believe the Elston bypass plan will reduce delays from top times of seven minutes to as little as 30 seconds at peak traffic times. Breaking up the six way intersection should result in much fewer accidents as well.

The estimated cost of the project is $32 million with financing coming from federal highway funds, TIF funds and city capital improvement budgets according to Waguespack.

If it is passed and funded, project planners hope to start construction by 2013 and be completed in about a year in 2014.

The public can comment on the project by May 13th.

24 Responses to City Unveils Bold New Reconfiguration Plan For Damen-Elston-Fullerton Intersection

  1. This is amazing news!!! I hate that corner! Traffic backs all the way up to Clyborn and Ashland (another horrible intersection).

  2. Jesse says:

    Make sure that I can still get to Vienna Beef’s Cafe !!

  3. glg says:

    where this has elston hitting fullerton, I’m pretty sure fullerton is still elevated from the bridge

  4. Aaron says:

    You can see the Elston bike route lane stays intact but I dont see anything on Damen, which is also a bike route. That’s a pretty hazardous intersection for bikes.

    I’d also like to see them incorporate something along the river. it seems this plan allows for riverside beautification/access along there.

  5. patg says:

    Just gives the city to put in 5 red light cameras instead of the two that are there already. (although this intersection is terrible now, and I look forward to the change)

  6. LVogt says:

    They could save a ton of money if they just took out the island at the center and made it a simple 3-way intersection.

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  8. Brian says:

    Any idea what the impact would be on the bike lanes on Damen or Elston? Both are pretty popular bike routes.

  9. BXK says:

    I’d heard about this years ago. glad it is finally going to happen.

    Ha, yeah, I now am thinking about the Clybourn Ashland Damen intersection. That area does suck. Can we fix it next?

    But this Damen-Fullerton-Elston one is hands down the worst in the city as far as I know. So I’m glad it is getting attention first. I have been gone for about a year and a half but while home for Christmas, forgot the D-F-E intersection is so bad, particularly on a Saturday, and I got caught in it. While living there, I would take any other route to avoid that road. I wanna say it took 10 minutes to get through to N Damen.

  10. The Parking Ticket Geek says:


    To be honest, being the one-track minded type of guy I am, I was concentrating on the implications for drivers, not bikers.

    However, I do know some thought was put into pedestrian and biking concerns. Ald. Waguespack is pretty supportive of biking issues (and is a rider himself) and CDOT always looks out for cyclists as well. Check out the links to the details of the plan and I’m pretty sure you can find some biking info.

  11. Aaron says:

    Brian – the plan keeps the Elston lane intact but doesn’t help the Damen route problems at all. There would still be the same hazardous .26 miles leading up to the intersection without a designated bike lane. Steve Vance get into the biking details of the plan here:

  12. stimoceiver says:

    I dont get it. Why spend millions of dollars to route around this intersection when they could just remove the center triangle island and turn it into a plain old six corners intersection like Lincoln Irving and Damen or Milwaukee Irving and Cicero?

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  15. John Adams says:

    A thought I had just the other day about this intersection, (besides much cursing!) is that this might be the ideal place to put in a roundabout. I’m not sure how this would affect the businesses that are there, (midtown tennis, the popeyes or whatever that is, and the Vienna beef)or how much space they really take up, but it seems that there would be plenty of space to have one there.
    But anything they do should be an improvement, and I’m glad that something is being done. That intersection is HORRIBLE, and dangerous.

  16. jk says:

    While I agree that the intersection needs to be fixed, I have mixed emotions because my kid goes to the My Gym next to Whirlyball that looks like it will need to be demolished. I think if they just got rid of the stupid island (like others think), then it would be fine. There are so many intersections in Chicago that need someone (anyone) with a brain to look at and come up with a simple solution and things would work so much better (2 left turn lanes from North Ave to Lasalle…. so on..)

  17. “Bold”? Where’s the roundabout? Where’s the protected bike lane?

    Self-entitled assholes trying to drive a mile to get to Piece and clueless Iowans heading home from the Cubs game will still block the box and fuck it all up.

  18. @brian

  19. Tom says:

    just think how messed up this intersection will be when it’s under construction

  20. Bridget Stalla says:

    Reminder, last day to comment on the Damen Elston Fullerton Plan via the Public Hearing Process. Click on the CDOT link to print out and mail a comment form, or email your comment with your address and email stated to

  21. Bryan says:

    To those suggesting they just “remove the triangle”, the reason the triangle exists is because the 3 roads don’t all meet at the same point, which is what the big issue is here.

    Most of the bypass work won’t impact traffic btw as basically the bypass gets built while the existing roads are left in tact.

    I live a block away from this and couldn’t be happier about it.

  22. Mina says:

    Almost got t-bone on this road today. Glad the other vehicle brakes were working and was able to stop and avoided collision. I want to believe my aunt was there and made the other vehicle to a stop. My aunt passed away yesterday. They should do the reconfiguration by 2012 and not 2013. For all other reason, I want to thank Alderman Waguespack for this road project. Wish everyone a safe driving.

  23. The Parking Ticket Geek says:

    Thanks for the update Steven.

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