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Jeff Park Putting $250,000 Into Traffic Safety Near Site Where Boy Killed

By Alex Nitkin | May 2, 2017 6:14am
 A makeshift memorial for Noah Katz, 2, at the intersection of Giddings Avenue and Central Avenue, where he was struck and killed by a van in November 2016.
A makeshift memorial for Noah Katz, 2, at the intersection of Giddings Avenue and Central Avenue, where he was struck and killed by a van in November 2016.
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DNAinfo/Alex Nitkin

CHICAGO — City transportation officials have set aside $250,000 for a suite of projects designed to slow traffic along a crash-prone stretch of Central Avenue in Jefferson Park, a spokesman for Ald. John Arena (45th) said Monday.

The alderman had already set aside money from his discretionary budget to build sidewalk extensions — known as "bump-outs" — at the intersection of Central Avenue and Giddings Street before November, when 2-year-old Noah Katz was fatally struck by a driver making a left-hand turn at the intersection. But after the crash, officials expanded the plan and rushed it to the front-burner, said Arena's chief of staff, Owen Brugh.

"That area, and Central in particular, does get a lot of aggressive driving, with people trying to get to and from the Kennedy" Expy., Brugh said. "But there are a fair number of pedestrians along that stretch, including kids trying to get to Prussing [Elementary School], so we're just trying to make sure the street is safe for all users."

In addition to bump-outs along the east side of Central at Giddings, crews will build two more sidewalk extensions: one a block south of the crash site at Central and Leland avenues, and a third at Central and Ainslie Street.

Sidewalk bump-outs, right-turn-only lanes and new bike lanes are being planned for the half-mile stretch of Central Avenue. [Google Maps]

As a precursor to the bump-outs, a city ordinance approved in December stripped away rush hour parking restrictions along Central between Eastwood and Warwick avenues in Portage Park, making the thoroughfare a permanent one-lane street along the 1½-mile stretch.

Right-turn-only lanes are also in the works for Central on both sides of Lawrence Avenue, Brugh said. They'll split up two new bike lanes: a separated lane along the three-block stretch from Goodman to Gunnison stereets, and a shared lane tracing the half-mile from Lawrence to Montrose avenues

Officials are aiming to wrap up the entire streetscape project by the end of this year, Brugh said.

The crash that killed Noah was the latest episode in a turbulent history for the section of Central between Higgins and Montrose avenues. City transportation officials counted 367 traffic crashes along that stretch between 2010 and 2014, including two that left pedestrians dead.

The coming projects are being funded out of Arena's $1.3 million capital spending budget for 2017, for which he skipped the participatory budgeting process to get caught up on stalled plans from previous years, he said.

HIs budget for this year also set aside about $500,000 to re-pave 12 residential streets, plus another $100,000 to patch up sidewalks, Brugh said.

Three additional bump-outs are being planned along Milwaukee Avenue, he added — they're bound for the intersections at Giddings, Warner Avenue and Cuyler Street.

Arena will hold five open assemblies this month to brainstorm infrastructure improvements for the ward's 2018 budget, his office announced. They'll be refined into a participatory budgeting ballot set to come out in October.

The meetings are scheduled for:

• 6 p.m. Thursday at St. John's Episcopal Church, 3857 N. Kostner Ave. in Old Irving Park

• 11 a.m. Saturday at the Jefferson Park Public Library, 5363 W. Lawrence Ave.

• 6 p.m. Monday at Hitch Elementary School, 5625 N. McVicker Ave. in Jefferson Park

• 6 p.m. May 9 at Eden United Church of Christ, 5051 W. Gunnison Ave. in Jefferson Park

• 6 p.m. May 11 at Filament Theatre, 4041 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Portage Park