GLADSTONE PARK — A plan that would have eliminated one lane of travel in each direction along Milwaukee Avenue to build protected bike lanes in Gladstone Park is dead, according to a spokesman for Ald. John Arena (45th).
The proposal — one of three options presented by the Chicago Department of Transportation designed to improve traffic flow and reduce crashes along Milwaukee — was going to have too big of an impact on parking and sight lines for bicyclists and motorists, said Owen Brugh, Arena's chief of staff.
"It just wasn't going to be practical," Brugh said.
Heather Cherone says it's a politically charged issue on the NW-side:
The alderman has not decided which of the other two options still on the table for Milwaukee he supports — one of which would eliminate a traffic lane to create buffered bike lanes in each direction, Brugh said.
"The alderman wants a solution that would slow traffic and make Milwaukee Avenue safer for all users," Brugh said.
Chicago Police Lt. John Garrido, who narrowly lost to Arena in 2011 and is challenging him again in February's aldermanic election, said he was pleased the option that would have made the biggest change to traffic patterns along Milwaukee has been dropped.
"I think the pressure from the community made a difference," Garrido said, crediting the petitions signed by more than 4,000 people opposed to the bike lane proposal for influencing the alderman.
However, Garrido said he would continue to oppose the proposal to eliminate one lane of traffic along Milwaukee to expand the existing buffered bike lanes.
"It is not over yet," Garrido said, adding that he favors maintaining two lanes of travel in each direction along Milwaukee while expanding the white buffered bike-lane pavement markings between Lawrence and Elston by reducing the center turn lane.
However, an analysis by city transportation officials said the proposal Garrido favors would have no measurable impact on vehicle safety along Milwaukee, and only a "minor positive" impact on pedestrian safety and bicyclists' safety and comfort.
The plan to eliminate one lane of traffic in each direction to expand the buffered bike lanes would have a "positive impact" on pedestrian safety, bicyclists' safety and comfort as well as vehicle safety, according to the city analysis.
Opponents of the proposal say narrowing Milwaukee would snarl traffic and hurt neighborhood businesses in an area that has struggled for years to fill empty storefronts, but supporters said it would bring new life to both the Jefferson Park and Gladstone Park business districts by making them safer and more attractive for bicyclists and pedestrians.
From 2008 to 2012, there were 910 crashes on the stretch of Milwaukee. More than 40 percent of the crashes that resulted in an injury involved a bicyclist or a pedestrian, according to a city study.
In addition, a traffic study conducted by city engineers found that 75 percent of drivers exceeded the 30-mph speed limit and 14 percent went faster than 40 mph.
The Chicago Department of Transportation plans to spend $1.5 million along the stretch of road, which about 20,000 drivers use every day. Eighty percent of the project is being paid for by federal grants.
Another community meeting will take place later this summer once the project is finalized, with construction scheduled to be completed in 2015, officials said.
Whether or not a lane is eliminated, the project will include coordinated traffic lights, more high-visibility and shortened crosswalks along Milwaukee, as well as pedestrian refuge islands that would give those on foot a safe place to wait if they are unable to make it all the way across the street.
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