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'Dangerous' Lincoln, Ashland, Belmont Intersection Getting Overhaul

By Ariel Cheung | March 30, 2016 5:40am
 The Lakeview intersection is in dire need of assistance, but funding fell through in past years, officials said.
Streets Overhaul Offers Massive Changes At Corner Of Lincoln, Ashland And Belmont
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LAKEVIEW — One of Chicago's most dangerous intersections is getting a long-awaited overhaul in the coming years.

City officials unveiled plans for a major road project at the intersection of Lincoln, Ashland and Belmont avenues during a public meeting Tuesday.

Geared toward improving safety and enhancing the pedestrian experience, the project would shorten crosswalks, straighten Ashland Avenue and eliminate dangerous left turns, according to the Chicago Department of Transportation.

It's a sorely needed improvement along Lakeview's west side, where the recession stalled revitalization efforts for the past seven years, said Ald. Tom Tunney (44th).

"There have been a couple machinations we've been working on with traffic consultants, and we think we've got a transportation plan worked out," Tunney said.

The Lincoln Ashland Belmont project extends from School to Wellington. [All photos provided/Chicago Department of Transportation]

Proposed plans include:

• Extending curbs at all six corners, which shortens and straightens crosswalks. The Lincoln Avenue bumpouts would be specially designed to straighten the street for a more "intuitive" crossing.

• Eliminating left turns from Lincoln Avenue in both directions. Tight right turns from Ashland Avenue to the opposite direction of travel on Lincoln will also be restricted.

• Moving bus stops to the far sides of the intersection — southbound Ashland buses, for example, would stop at the southwest corner in front of Central Savings bank.

• Adding bicycle lanes with dedicated, dotted crossings along Lincoln Avenue. Bicycle boxed spaces painted green would also put bicyclists ahead of vehicles at the cross.

In 2006, the city completed the first phase of the Lincoln, Ashland and Belmont overhaul before funding fell through for the second phase.

Federal and state money is expected to cover project costs, although a final amount has not been determined, said Janet Attarian, director of livable streets for the city transportation department.

With a second public meeting planned for the fall, design work is slated to begin in early 2017. Construction would begin in spring 2018 and finish a year later.

The intersection rests on the edges of Tunney's ward and those of Alds. Scott Waguespack (32nd) and Ameya Pawar (47th). The aldermen also pushed for the return of the No. 11 Lincoln Avenue bus last year.

Public transportation is the lifeblood of the intersection, with the No. 9 Ashland bus topping city routes with 9.8 million rides in 2013. The No. 77 Belmont bus ranked sixth with 7.4 million rides.

The six-corner intersections are "always a challenge," Attarian said. "Just getting the timing to work with the signals is a challenge."

The intersection is among the city's most dangerous, according to a 2010 city study. An average of 35 crashes occur each year with daily traffic around 62,000 vehicles. The intersection with the highest crash rate — Stony Island, South Chicago and 79th in South Shore — had an average 63 crashes with about the same traffic volume.

The city CDOT wants to plant trees every 25 feet along Lincoln Avenue from Greenview to Wellington.

Along the entire project area, city reports about 90 crashes per year, and three in four take place at intersections. About 11 percent involve bicyclists or pedestrians.

The project is expected to include work on intersections at Southport, Lincoln and Wellington avenues, where the controversial Lincoln Hub will also see some activity.

Extended curbs will replace the Lincoln Hub polka dots and bollards that have riled some Lakeview residents and delighted others. With the ability to fill out slip lanes, the curbs won't go out as far as the painted areas at Southport, Lincoln and Wellington.

At Lincoln, Southport and Wellington, expanded curbs will not extend as far as the current Lincoln Hub bollards and painted bumpouts.

The city also wants to extend curbs at Lincoln, Greenview and Barry.

Ongoing construction at the new Lakeview Whole Foods will be complete long before work starts on the intersection, Attarian said. While the 2006 project required some tweaking, the department has planned for the increased traffic around the store

Eventually, the city would like to create a plaza or other "placemaking" area at Lincoln, Ashland and Belmont.

"We can really make some meaningful public space," Attarian said. "It totally changes the area and activates the space."

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