WICKER PARK — A dangerous and confusing intersection in Wicker Park that's long been the source of frustration for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists is finally getting a makeover, officials announced Friday.
The redesign of Milwaukee Avenue at Wolcott Avenue and Wood Street will create a traditional four-way intersection with traffic signals and pedestrian crosswalks on all four corners, said Matt Bailey, a spokesman for Ald. Joe Moreno (1st).
Moreno's reaction to the news? "About damn time," he said in a statement issued through Bailey.
Part of a larger $3 million CDOT Traffic Signal Modernization Project, in which 13 intersections across the city are seeing improvements, the cost of the $300,000 project was split between the Illinois Department of Transportation, the Special Service Area taxpayer district No. 33 and 1st Ward menu funds.
CDOT spokesman Pete Scales said contractor City Lights, Ltd. was hired to do the work, which should be completed "sometime early next year."
Bailey called the intersection "a total relic and palpably dangerous." Residents have been asking for improvements for "at least 10 years," he said.
Jaime Pandoia, manager of a 7-Eleven at 1400 N. Milwaukee Ave. on the northwest corner of Wolcott and Milwaukee, said he's witnessed "more than four accidents" in recent months.
Less than a month ago, Pandiola watched a taxi collide with a woman who was talking on her cell phone while walking her bicycle across the intersection.
The woman had been trying to cross onto Wood Street as the taxi was traveling south on Milwaukee through the intersection, which is wider and longer than most intersections because the streets are not properly aligned.
A CDOT crash analysis of a one-mile stretch of Milwaukee Avenue between Wood Street and Augusta Avenue saw 196 total crashes between 2007 and 2011, with 50 — nearly 25 percent of the total — occurring at the intersection of Wolcott and Milwaukee avenues.
All but one of those 50 crashes involved pedestrians or cyclists, according to the report.
In addition to reconfiguring the streets to make them perpendicular, pavement markings, ADA ramps and lighting will be updated, Scales said.
"The realignment should improve safety for motorists and pedestrians because of the increased visibility, as well as the shortening of the pedestrian crossing across Wood. The modernization should also improve the flow of traffic through the intersection, and the visibility of the actual traffic signals," Scales said.
Late Thursday, residents and local workers were pleased to hear about the redesign.
Michael Mullen, a stylist at Fringe salon at 1437 N. Milwaukee Ave. agreed the intersection was "confusing.
"It's hard to turn left onto Milwaukee when you are traveling south on Wood Street because cars are also coming [eastbound on] Wolcott and going north onto Wood," Mullen said.
Leah Root, a resident of Wood Street, said she's witnessed several "near misses" between cyclists and cars.
Root described the intersection as "confusing and dangerous."
Brent Norsman, an architect whose firm worked pro bono to draft a design for the intersection's redesign, said the makeover was the Special Service Area's "project of the year" in 2011 and "we are very excited to see it happening."
The delay in the project was largely due to a hold-up in getting funds from the state, officials said.
After CDOT rebuilds the infrastructure for the improvements, Norsman, who is a member of the taxpayer district's transportation subcommittee, said the Special Service Area will "have the opportunity to augment the intersection with landscaping, public art and other pedestrian and cyclist improvements."