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Mell Pulls Plug On Manor Diverter, Future Of Bike Greenway Now In Doubt

By Patty Wetli | October 28, 2016 7:29am
 The controversial Manor diverter will come down Friday, Ald. Deb Mell told residents Thursday night.
The controversial Manor diverter will come down Friday, Ald. Deb Mell told residents Thursday night.
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DNAinfo/Patty Wetli

RAVENSWOOD MANOR — In the face of a vocal and organized opposition, Ald. Deb Mell (33rd) announced Thursday night that she has decided to pull the plug on the Manor diverter trial.

"I've instructed CDOT [the Chicago Department of Transportation] to remove the diverter tomorrow morning," Mell told the approximately 50 residents who turned out for the monthly meeting of the ward's Transportation Action Committee, held at Horner Park.

The controversial diverter forced through-traffic off of Manor Avenue at Wilson Avenue and prohibited cars on Wilson from turning onto Manor. The trial started Sept. 19 and was supposed to run through Nov. 18.

"I'm disappointed," Carol Maher, a member of the committee, said of the trial's end.

Maher, who's also president of the People of East Albany Park block club, said there was no negative feedback from members of her organization regarding the diverter.

Though the diverter was proposed as a way to make Manor Avenue safer for pedestrians and cyclists, particularly with Manor designated as a bike path connector between Lawrence and Montrose, neighbors said the obstruction created a more dangerous environment by pushing motorists into alleys and onto alternative routes such as Francisco.

Bette Rosenstein, an outspoken critic of the diverter, said motorists frequently found themselves backed up onto the CTA tracks near the Francisco Brown Line station, herself included, as trains approached.

"I had nowhere to go," she said.

Reconfiguring traffic on Manor in anticipation of potential cyclists struck Rosenstein as backwards thinking.

"Let's see how many bikes come through before we start changing our streets," she said. "We have no idea how many bikes, no one ever says."

While the diverter trial had its supporters, its detractors lobbied hard against it from day one. A "Stop the Diverter" group popped up on Facebook, created a Twitter account, collected signatures for a petition and filed Freedom of Information Act requests to obtain documents related to the diverter project.

"I heard all of it, I read all of the emails," Mell said.

"I think it's pretty clear that it wasn't necessarily what we expected and I wanted to thank you all for hanging in there," she said Thursday night.

The diverter is coming down Friday. [DNAinfo/Patty Wetli]

The alderman said she still intends to review CDOT's report on the diverter once the agency has analyzed data collected during the trial but added "I'm not feeling positive" about ever bringing the diverter back.

With the diverter now seemingly off the table, residents then pressed Mell to scrap plans for a neighborhood greenway on Manor — which the diverter was separate from but would have complemented — and go back to the drawing board.

The greenway, on Manor between Lawrence and Montrose, would encompass a number of traffic calming measures such as curb extensions, raised crosswalks and pedestrian refuge islands, all aimed at creating a more comfortable experience for pedestrians and cyclists.

One of her primary goals as alderman, Mell said, was to create a more walkable, safer area.

"I do live in a walkable neighborhood," said Lucia McQueeny, a 26-year Ravenswood Manor resident, who argued that the greenway was unnecessary.

Speed bumps, neighbors said, would achieve the same results.

Opposition to the greenway caught Mell off guard.

The idea of a greenway on Manor dates back to 2014 and has been discussed nearly monthly since then at Transportation Action Committee meetings, which are open to the public, Mell said.

A proposal for the project was unveiled in June during a two-hour presentation from CDOT that was widely attended, she noted.

"Before, everyone was OK with the greenway part," she said. "This is absolutely the first time I'm hearing there's a problem with the greenway plan."

The diverter had created skepticism and raised questions about the alderman's and the committee's transparency, neighbors responded.

"Maybe we'll leave Manor completely untouched," said a frustrated Mell.

That suited Rosemarie McGrath, a 37-year resident of Ravenswood Manor, just fine.

"Keep Ravenswood Manor exactly like it is," McGrath said. "Leave it alone."

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