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City 'Can't Just Willy-Nilly' Block Access To North Broadway, Neighbors Say

By Ariel Cheung | March 21, 2016 6:01am
 A new sign prohibits use of the slip lane turning from Halsted Street onto North Broadway in Lakeview. The city plans to fill in the slip lane soon.
A new sign prohibits use of the slip lane turning from Halsted Street onto North Broadway in Lakeview. The city plans to fill in the slip lane soon.
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DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung

EAST LAKEVIEW — Anxious about plans to permanently cut off access between two East Lakeview thoroughfares, neighbors are taking a stand against the alderman-backed street project.

The city wants to fill in the slip lane that allows southbound access to Broadway from Halsted Street as part of a larger resurfacing project on North Broadway.

Slip lanes are separate lanes at intersections that allow vehicles to turn and merge into traffic without stopping.

There's been unexpected pushback against the move, and neighbors want officials to reconsider. The Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce launched a petition in February asking the city to remove a no-turn sign and keep the slip lane. As of Sunday, 340 people have signed.

"This is going to negatively affect the economics of our commercial district and be a hindrance to the folks taking children to school," said Maureen Martino, the chamber's executive director.

Not only does the turn ease school traffic from the Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School, but it also keeps a healthy flow of shoppers between Halsted and Broadway, the chamber argues.

Neighbors and businesses worry that closing off the slip lane from Halsted Street to North Broadway will snarl traffic, particularly during Cubs games and for a nearby school. [DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung]

Ald. James Cappleman (46th) is "completely open" to addressing the concerns, his chief-of-staff Tressa Feher told East Lake View Neighbors earlier this month.

"He's not a traffic expert, he doesn't claim to be. That's why we rely on [the Chicago Department of Transportation], who does these traffic studies," Feher said.

Some said they felt Cappleman didn't seem interested in changing the plan, despite the opposition. Feher and the Bernard Zell school did not respond to requests for comment.

At the March 1 meeting, Feher pointed to a city study from Oct. 22, before the no-turn sign was installed and, incidentally, the day after the Chicago Cubs ended their postseason run.

Of the 403 vehicles traveling north on Halsted from 7-9 a.m., 18 took the hard right onto Broadway, the study showed. Out of 590 drivers from 4 to 6 p.m. the same day, 23 took the turn. Both make up for less than 5 percent of northbound Halsted traffic.

But anecdotally, that doesn't seem to be the case.

"We've seen a huge change since the sign went up. It's disruptive," said Derek Myers, general manager of Spex, an eye care office anchoring the mixed-use building at the corner, 3760 N. Broadway.

Neighbors living in the wedge-shaped building at Broadway and Halsted Street are troubled by a planned change in the traffic pattern. [DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung]

Parking for residents in the upper-level apartments has also become a "screwed-up" situation, building manager Gerry Gedroic said.

"I'm shocked, really, at the fact they're doing it, and shocked that they don't listen to what the community wants," Gedroic said.

Easy access and the ability to quickly search for parking is extremely important to the businesses at the corner, particularly Flashes Hair Designs and the International Sports and Health Clinic chiropractor, Gedroic said. Her residents have also found the change troublesome.

Slip lanes are being removed citywide to keep cars from zooming around corners — a potential hazard for pedestrians that is "not encouraged," the city's Transportation Department said. In 2012, the city began a push to remove slip lanes to improve pedestrian conditions in Chicago.

"They've studied slip lanes and found them to be hazardous," Feher said. "They didn't say this specific area was hazardous — that's the difference."

While drivers could eventually learn to get to Broadway by turning on Waveland Avenue a block south of the intersection, the detour is "not particularly intuitive," wrote John Greenfield of Streetsblog Chicago, a sustainable transportation-focused blog. Nonetheless, the "dangerous" slip lane should be removed, Greenfield said.

It's not likely visitors to the neighborhood will figure that out the alternative route, Martino said.

Cutting off access means cars trying to get to Broadway will likely circle around the block at Sheridan Road, where Gill Park and Greeley Elementary School draw more children, Martino said. After that, they would pass through residential blocks and by the Bernard Zell synagogue to get to Broadway.

Cars could also start making illegal U-turns in the middle of the intersection or use the IHOP parking lot or Halsted Flats driveway to turn around, Martino suggested.

"If it's not broken, why are we fixing it?" she said. "A lot of [slip lanes] are dangerous, but this one is not. This is going to make it unsafe."

Drivers will have two options to access North Broadway from Halsted if plans to eliminate a slip lane are carried out. Opponents say the restriction would suffocate businesses on the strip of North Broadway. [DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung]

Closing off the slip lane is part of city plans to repave North Broadway from Belmont to Irving Park Road in the next year. The first step was converting Clarendon Avenue to one lane of a northbound traffic and a sectioned-off bicycle lane in fall 2015.

The city won't close off the turn lane until next year and will continue to observe activity at the intersection, Feher said. In the meantime, neighbors want the no-turn sign to come down so the department can get an adequate picture of the slip lane's use.

"They can't just willy-nilly put up a sign for no right turn — it hurts a lot of the businesses southbound on Broadway," said Marty Wallace, an East Lake View Neighbors board member. "That hurts the neighborhood."

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