SOUTH SHORE — The Chicago Transportation Department is considering taking traffic lanes out of Stony Island Avenue to create bike lanes.
CDOT presented plans Tuesday at a 5th Ward meeting on a $3 million beautification project of the major South Side thoroughfare from 67th to 79th streets.
Project managers presented several options for reworking the street that will be taken to the community in the coming months.
Among the options presented was a proposal to remove one lane from the northbound side of the street to create two-way bicycle lanes separated from traffic by a thin landscaped median.
“This option makes a lot of sense because it mimics the lakefront trail,” said Dave Smith, a project manager for CDOT.
Other options included cutting one lane from both the northbound and southbound sides of the street for bike lanes protected from traffic by landscaped medians.
South Shore residents were skeptical that adding bike lanes would increase cycling on the street, and many thought removing a lane would add to congestion as rush-hour traffic plods along Stony Island from the Skyway to South Lake Shore Drive.
Smith said the eight lanes of Stony Island currently handle about 35,000 cars per day, half of the 70,000 cars that travel Lake Shore Drive daily.
He said traffic studies found that cyclists use Stony Island to get to 71st Street, and then they head over to the lakefront. But Stony Island is not safe for cycling now, he said, with about 45 bike accidents in the last five years.
Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) said she was not convinced the bike lanes would be a good idea, but was encouraged that there was a clear source of funding.
“I have not been a big proponent of it, but I will defer to the community,” Hairston said.
About 80 percent of the project would be funded through federal grants, with the remainder paid for through state grants and money from the city’s yearly budget.
Construction would begin next summer once a plan is settled on, according to the city. Once the first phase is underway, planning for a second phase farther south to South Chicago Avenue would begin.
A similar beautification project for a section of 71st Street from South Shore Drive to Jeffery Boulevard is set to begin when the weather warms up.
The section of 71st Street will be repaved and get new sidewalks. The project will later be extended to Stony Island.
Both projects are part of a city plan to improve access to the lake for cyclists in South Shore and Greater Grand Crossing.