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 The Cortland / Ashland underpass in Wicker Park Bucktown serves as a major gateway into the neighborhood for a multitude of users — drivers, cyclists, pedestrians… and thousands of transit users daily via the Clybourn Metra Station and CTA buses. As part of the WPB Master Plan, we are exploring improving the underpass as a potential future project. What are your thoughts…How would you like to see this gateway node improved?

Now let’s react to some pictures! Share your preferences by giving each image below a STAR RATING! Have other ideas — we’d love to hear them!  Scroll down to submit comments and upload photos showcasing ideas you’d like to see. Click follow in the website footer to receive project updates.


Concept 1: Creative lighting and accent art



Concept 2: Interesting murals by local artists



Concept 3: Interesting accent lighting paired with murals (palm trees not included)



Concept 4: Festive lighting



Concept 5: Existing Underpass (keep as-is)


Thanks for taking the time to share your perspective. Submit additional ideas and photos below!

Recent Comments:

  • It needs new handicapped ramps that are less steep with modern grading.
  • There really needs to be a protected bike lane through there. There was an accident just last week and the roads are also in very poor shape.
  • Install curb protected bike lanes and a safer intersection
  • The problem isn’t only the underpass, but the fact that Cortland east of Ashland is an unpleasant place for walking–there’s too much traffic and not enough going on. Unfortunately, there’s no alternate route. Perhaps when/if a decision is made about how to develop the Finkl site, the developers would be required first to build a reasonable pedestrian/bike route from the end of the 606 over to Racine.
  • Better lighting to increase visibility of cyclists and pedestrians.
  • This is an important connecting point for 2 very vital neighborhoods. Most important to me: improve infrastructure and aesthetics of this intersection with special emphasis on improving the pedestrian and biking experience.
  • Focus on safety for pedestrians & cyclists – repave Cortland, mark dedicated bike lane, find a way of getting users safely to 606. That intersection is pretty terrible.
  • Improvements for pedestrian and biker safety would be huge.
  • Please extend the 606 east of ashland. The current bike infrastructure crossing ashland on cortland is just horrible and dangerous.
  • Lighting would definitely be a major win – it’s a little scary walking through in the evening. In addition to the lighting, painting/murals would be great! Maybe even a spot for local kids to come and help add a little something to a painting.
  • Focus and continue to pursue an extension of the 606 under the overpass into the river a connection to the Clybourn Corridor will be fantastic. I also really like the idea about parking raised above.
  • I believe that their should be more signage to help everyone recognize that this is an interchange for all types of traffic; bikes, pedestrians, cars etc.
  • I drive this rarely, but cycle and walk through it daily. It is an ugly and relatively unsafe bottleneck between two relatively nicer areas (the 606 and Cortland to the west, and Cortland to the east.) Art and lighting would be nice improvements, but it also needs roadway improvements for the benefit of non-car users.
  • Designated bike lanes crossing Ashland at Cortland. Less obtrusive support columns as in a couple of the pictures. Also, the underpass North of Cortland is the worst.
  • This needs to be redesigned to be safer for bikers and pedestrians – the sightlines are awful and the potholes are horrific. I don’t care what the aesthetics are.
  • Cortland is a vital east-west corridor for bike and pedestrian movement. Bike boxes would go a long way to helping cyclists navigate the intersection and allow for safer passage towards the 606 and adjacent neighborhoods and transit connections.
  • Need a complete plan to include the station, 606, and even the surrounding traffic feeders.
  • Very glad this is being discussed – that area is very depressing. I hope plans move forward not just for a make over, but for maintenance too. This is a heavy traffic area, and whatever is done will quickly be undone without an on-going maintenance plan.
  • #1 – infrastructure repairs, make sure that it will be standing in 50 years.
    #2 – Cortland on the other side of Ashland is bad – fix sidewalks, remove stairs (make a ramp?)
  • This should encompass that entire underpass on both sides of Cortland and Ashland. As is it’s dark, dank, and deteriorating. It certainly could use a splash of colour, but it needs repairs more than anything right now. That intersection is also in desperate need of clearly lined crosswalks and getting rid of that massive blind spot for both pedestrians and vehicles that exists on the north side of the Ashland/Cortland intersection. Finally, getting some actual drainage at that dip for a bridge that isn’t there anymore just south of there on Ashland is up there on my list of wants.
  • I like the idea of having a more ‘classic’ design for the area. There area a number of existing older structures on Cortland, and knowing that this design will stand for a very long time with little updating and maintenance, I think it is very important to use a design that will require little upkeep, and will not become dated or deteriorate quickly over time.Anything is better than current state. Lighting alone would improve safety for bikes and pedestrians.
  • We need a more comprehensive plan that includes the 606 parks, the metra station, and the highway underpass – not just the underpass.
  • There is a ton of fenced off land under the highway – it should be graded and improved and made into a long term parking option for metra passengers and for 606 park goers. The existing parking situation in the area stinks.
  • Lighting should be updated dramatically – you don’t necessarily need “festive lighting” – you just need much brighter functional lighting. It feels dangerous to be in the area at night.
  • Signage, signal lights, and street lines need to be dramatically improved for car usage – it’s very dangerous driving the underpass – even during the day.
  • It would be great if they are able to build concessions/cafes at the base of metra in the underpass. If you’re not able to build anything down there, then just concession trailers/carts would be OK as long as lighting is adequate.
  • Public bathrooms would be nice…. – perhaps as part of the parking lot complex?
  • I love murals but this underpass is used so much that a mural will get covered in traffic soot and look bad. The existing paint is full of dirt and is chipping off, it needs to be scraped off completely. Cladding some if it in a durable and attractive tile could be another option. Tiles can also be painted and involve community artists. New lighting is definitely needed. Colorful LED lighting in underpasses is a new trend that Chicago should definitely take part in. Enhancing signage is also a needed because unless your used to the intersection, it can get confusing thus causing more traffic.
  • Moreover, to enhance pedestrian circulation and foster civic life in this heavily trafficked, yet neglected area, consider an approach that combines functionality and public art.

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  • Avoid murals or fancy lighting which can be a traffic distraction. The example with simple columnar colored lights would be attractive and might cut down on evening visitors.
  • YES. This underpass is the UGLIEST and is so heavily used. Defiantly needs a makeover but the design should age well.
  • Just fixing the bomb craters picking the paving would be a good start.
  • There are more important things needing financial blah blah than that.
  • Better designed lighting. No murals!
  • It needs a complete remodeling not just a cosmetic remodeling.
  • Designated bike lanes for extra safety.