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Palmer Square Park Traffic 'Speedway' Threatens Stroller Moms, Some Say

By Darryl Holliday | June 4, 2014 9:47am
 A decade-old call for more safety measures by the popular park is being revived, but opposition remains.
A decade-old call for more safety measures by the popular park is being revived, but opposition remains.
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DNainfo/Darryl Holliday

LOGAN SQUARE — Traffic-calming measures — shelved nearly a decade ago at Palmer Square — are being revived as the park’s popularity continues to climb.

Supporters say the addition of speed tables, or raised crosswalks, to the streets around the park will curb the use of Palmer Boulevard as “a speedway” for drivers attempting to outmaneuver Fullerton Avenue traffic.

But those against the measures say the price tag is too high when other solutions are readily available.

While the issue itself isn’t new, the demographics of Palmer Square have changed alongside an overall shift in Logan Square. The seven-acre park and tot lot has become a hotspot for young moms and kids who are at the mercy of speeding cars on the street, said Steve Hier, a resident whose front window has faced the park since the late '70s.

“Every day I see the moms pushing the kids across Albany [Avenue] at peril. … Cars do not stop — period. They drive 40 to 60 in a 25-mile-per-hour zone, and even if you step out a little bit they’ll go around people. Someone is going to get killed or seriously injured,” Hier said.

He estimated that 20 to 40 people, many children from nearby homes and schools, can be seen at the park at any given time.

Organizers are circulating a petition seeking to drum up support for increased traffic measures. But Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) says the request for raised intersections has not been approved by the Chicago Department of Transportation.

“We are moving ahead with CDOT to have new or repainted crosswalks done throughout Palmer Square, and adding in crosswalk stop for pedestrian signs,” Waguespack said via email. "There was an assessment done for other measures that are not CDOT-approved, so we are starting with CDOT-approved safety measures."

The upgrades, however, could be installed in time for the upcoming school year, he said.

The cost of installing four speed tables at the square would cost about $550,000 of the 32nd ward’s discretionary budget, Waguespack said, compared to around $160,000 to repaint all of the park’s crosswalks and add the word “stop” on the street at each crossing point.

Corinne Bradley, along with several other Palmer Square Park residents, has met with Waguespack to cite a number of reasons why the speed tables would be a detriment to the park’s atmosphere.

“The short of it is many of us on the block are opposed. We’d like to see more cost-effective measures that are less intrusive. … For me it's not a big enough issue to create these speed bumps,” she said.

In a letter to Waguespack, Bradley says a survey she took of area residents shows no consensus on the speed tables. Some were concerned that speed tables would impede fire and police vehicles, hinder cyclists on the street's designated bike lane and cause constant noise from passing cars.

Ald. Rey Colon (35th) said many of the same issues were brought up in past years, when the park was still in his ward. Colon said he's invested millions of dollars into the park, which “used to be a place where people would drink and chill.”

Colon said he’s always supported the installation of speed tables, parking alterations, bump-outs, and other traffic calming measures at Palmer Square. But forceful community resistance over the years kept many changes at bay.

Colon said of upgrades like the tot-lot and new stop signs the city installed around 2005 "changed the character [of the park] making it more inviting for people who want to use it.”

However, Colon said he thinks repainting of the crosswalks “is sufficient if [Waguespack] has other issues to take care of in his ward.”

“The speed tables are the bells and whistles, it’s a high expense for a glorified speed bump," said Colon. "But I wouldn’t do the [speed] tables unless I got the whole enchilada,” which includes another looming issue — a controversial ordinance allowing parking along the center lane of Palmer Boulevard on Sundays.

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