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Traffic Islands, Bike Lane Markings Proposed for Two Bucktown 'Greenways'

By Alisa Hauser | May 26, 2016 9:49am
 A few of the proposed Greenway design elements that could make Wood, Cortland Streets safer, CDOT says.
A few of the proposed Greenway design elements that could make Wood, Cortland Streets safer, CDOT says.
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BUCKTOWN — Replacing stop signs at sleepy four-way intersections with "traffic circles" or islands, marking bike-friendly lanes with bright green paint and adding speed bumps could improve safety along Wood and Cortland streets in Bucktown, Chicago Dept. of Transportation officials said Wednesday.

The design suggestions were included in a presentation on Wood and Cortland Neighborhood Greenways that Mike Amsden, assistant director of Transportation Planning at CDOT, shared with approximately 20 residents at a community meeting in the Bucktown-Wicker Park library, 1701 N. Milwaukee Ave.

The two greenways, part of CDOT's Complete Streets initiative, would be the third and fourth in the city. If approved, construction on the mostly federally-funded project would begin next summer. 

According to Amsden, the greenways would improve conditions for people walking to and from the Bloomingdale Trail, commercial corridors, schools and churches. The goal would be to slow down or "calm" traffic and offer cyclists an alternative to biking on busier main streets such as Damen and Armitage Avenues.

During weekday rush hours of 7-9 a.m. and 4-6 p.m., 29 percent of the traffic in the 1700 block of North Wood Street is from bike commuters, with cyclists commanding a 24 percent share of the road in the 1600 block of West Cortland Street during those same hours, Amsden said.

A greenway is a road prioritized for people walking, biking and living on the street that serves as a connection to neighborhood destinations and consists of signs, pavement markings and speed limit signs to reduce motor vehicle speeds and cut-through traffic.

Currently, there are neighborhood greenways along Berteau between Clark and Lincoln avenues in North Center, installed in 2013, and on Wood Street between Augusta Boulevard and Milwaukee Avenue, added in 2014.

The proposed Wood Street greenway would extend a bike-friendly stretch that currently ends at the Milwaukee Avenue and Wood Street intersection near Walgreens, 1372 N. Milwaukee Ave.

The Cortland greenway would extend 0.3-miles between Damen and Ashland avenues, while the Wood Street lane would run along a 0.7-mile strip between Milwaukee Avenue and Cortland Street.

CDOT proposed the removal of stop signs at Winchester Avenue and Cortland Street and Cortland and Wood Streets, to be replaced by "traffic circles" consisting of a small island with landscaping to force people to slow down in order to navigate around the circle.

Also, the speed limit would be restricted to 20 miles per hour to calm traffic (currently it is 30 miles per hour). And curb extensions near intersections would prevent cars from illegally parking there while increasing visibility of pedestrians, especially children, Amsden said.

Lisa Merlock, who lives at Wood Street and Bloomingdale Avenue, said she is "totally skeptical" of a traffic circle because she previously lived near the Berteau Greenway and said she "watched people drive over the islands all the time."

"But anything to slow traffic down is a good idea. We have a lot more pedestrians and bike traffic, more than we've ever had. It was a very quiet street before The 606," Merlock said.

Greg Osborne, a West Town resident who bikes recreationally, said he likes the Wood and Cortland greenways as an alternative to cycling on busier parallel streets such as Damen and Armitage avenues. 

"On a quiet street there is not a lot of car traffic, so a designated side street for bikes is something I'd support," said Osborne, who bikes often on Wood Street.

After the meeting, Amsden said the budget for the project is between $600-$700,000 and 80 percent of that would be covered by federal money through a Congestion Mitigation Air Quality, or CMAQ grant.

The remaining one-fifth would need to come from local sources, such as aldermanic menu funding.

Paul Sajovec, a spokesman for Waguespack, said that menu funds would be used only if the community supported the proposed changes.

The fund structure outlined by Amsden similar to the $95 million Bloomingdale Trail/606 project, which was funded in large part by a CMAQ grant.

CMAQ commuting dollars are intended to "support surface transportation projects and other related efforts that contribute air quality improvements and provide congestion relief," according to the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning.

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