WICKER PARK — A dangerous and confusing intersection will no longer perplex drivers, pedestrians and cyclists alike thanks to the addition of stoplights and a reconfiguration that makes crossing the street much easier.
After several false starts, work finally began in April on the intersection of Milwaukee Avenue, Wood Street and Wolcott Avenue in Wicker Park.
If all goes as planned, the intersection should be fully functional within the next two weeks or sooner, confirmed a contractor from City Lights Ltd.
Monique Rhivers, a 29-year-old union electrician, was busy Thursday installing electrical cords into a pole.
Rhivers said she had witnessed a few near accidents while working at the intersection.
"Bikes don't obey traffic signals, cars are speeding," Rhivers said.
As for pedestrians, "They stand back; they're careful," Rhivers said.
Rhivers said people have approached her as she is working to "say thanks" for working on the intersection.
For several years, residents and leaders have called the intersection dangerous for the odd alignment of the streets, lack of clear pedestrian signs and hard-to-see traffic lights.
Tall, prominent traffic lights are now visible on all four sides of the intersection and a once confusing cement "island" in the Milwaukee and Wood crossing that housed a small traffic pole has been removed.
Kalpesh Patel, a cashier at the 7-Eleven at 1400 N. Milwaukee Ave. has a front row view of the intersection, which now offers a traditional four-way intersection with traffic signals and pedestrian crosswalks on all four corners.
Patel said he would be "very happy" when the work was complete.
Patel said the construction had been "hard to watch" and people were complaining there was too much noise.
"I am happy it looks like it's almost over. There are more lights now than before. It looks more like an intersection," Patel said.
Previously, Matt Bailey, a spokesman for Ald. Joe Moreno (1st), called the intersection "a total relic and palpably dangerous" and said residents had been asking for it to be fixed for at least a decade.
On Thursday Bailey said, "The city is often slow but with the right amount of pressure we got there in the end."
A Chicago Transportation Department crash analysis of a mile-long stretch of Milwaukee between Wood and Augusta Avenue showed 196 total crashes between 2007 and 2011, with 50 occurring at the intersection of Wolcott and Milwaukee.
All but one of those 50 crashes involved pedestrians or cyclists, according to the report.
Contractor City Lights Ltd. was hired to do the work, which was expected to cost $300,000 and be funded through the Illinois Department of Transportation, Special Service Area taxpayer district No. 33, and 1st Ward infrastructure money.
The intersection was one of 13 locations getting an update through a $3 million city traffic signal modernization project, Department of Transportation spokesman Pete Scales said last year.
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