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City Officials Drop Plan to Close Jeff Park Road After Alderman's Protest

By Heather Cherone | October 16, 2015 2:09pm | Updated on October 19, 2015 8:25am
 Ald. John Arena (45th) physically blocked city crews from continuing work July 20 at Lamon and Wilson avenues.
Ald. John Arena (45th) physically blocked city crews from continuing work July 20 at Lamon and Wilson avenues.
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Kenji Kerins

JEFFERSON PARK — City officials Friday dropped plans to close a Jefferson Park street, agreeing to keep the road open to traffic — three months after crews began tearing up pavement in front of the Mayfair Pumping Station with no notice.

As first reported by DNAinfo Chicago, Ald. John Arena (45th) used his car to block construction crews tearing up Wilson Avenue at Lamon Avenue in July, prompting city officials to put a hold on the project amid the outcry and widespread media attention.

A community meeting will take place at 6 p.m. Oct. 28 at the Copernicus Center, 5216 W. Lawrence Ave., on the city's newest proposal to make Wilson Avenue one-way southbound from Sunnyside Avenue to where it curves into Wilson, preserving a route to the Edens Expy. many Jefferson Park residents take Downtown.

At that meeting, residents will have a chance to "ask representatives from the mayor's office, Chicago Department of Transportation and Water Management about how they intend to try and fix the situation," Arena said.

While a city spokesman said in July the decision to permanently close Wilson Avenue at Lamon Avenue was "designed to enhance safety" near the Mayfair Pumping Station, where there is "a history of excessive speeding," Arena said the real reason was the city's obligation to install a massive electronic billboard.

The 90-foot-tall electronic billboard cannot be built on the front lawn of the pumping station as originally planned because it would damage the station's underground infrastructure, and the billboard cannot be moved east out of the roadway because it would violate state law for being too close to another electronic billboard, Arena said.

Arena voted against the 2012 deal that allowed the billboards to be built, saying it would reduce the quality of life in the 45th Ward. The billboard near the pumping station would be the fourth to be built in Arena's ward.

Making Wilson Avenue one way would allow the billboard to be built on what is now westbound Wilson Avenue and "accommodate both the contractually-required billboard and access to the community," Arena said.

Wilson would remain open to both east- and westbound traffic to the former LepreCan property at 4808 W. Wilson Ave. where portable toilets were once stored and manufactured, Arena said.

That property is set to become the new home of the 45th Ward's Streets and Sanitation operations, Arena said.

In July, Arena likened the city's actions to former Mayor Richard M. Daley's decision to tear up the runways at Meigs Field under the cover of night to prevent dissent over his plan to turn that lakefront acreage into a park and nature sanctuary.

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