20 percent of street parking would be eliminated under one of three options for Milwaukee Avenue safety improvement project
by BRIAN NADIG
One option for the Milwaukee Avenue safety improvement project calls for the elimination of a lane of traffic in each direction, the removal of 20 percent of street parking and the installation of barrier protect bike lanes in the Gladstone Park commercial corridor.
This option would maximize efforts to improve safety for all roadway users on Milwaukee, while causing only slight increases in travel times for motorists, according to a video shown by the city Department of Transportation at a July 2 open house hosted by Alderman John Arena (45th).
The project would affect Milwaukee between Lawrence Avenue on the south and Elston Avenue on the north, but fewer changes are expected between Lawrence and the Kennedy Expressway, where traffic is more congested due to the narrowing of the roadway. Currently there are two lanes of traffic in each direction north of the expressway, where Milwaukee is 78 feet wide.
Commonly referred to as a “road diet,” one of the existing two lanes of traffic north of Central Avenue would be eliminated, and the 14-foot-wide painted median would be converted to a continuous left-turn lane.
In addition, protected bike lanes would be located along the curb, with parking to the outside of the bike lane. In the video presentation, spokes in the roadway were shown as a possible barrier for the bike lanes in some areas, and concrete islands, which would be placed to the outside of the bike lane, would be used as waiting areas at some bus stops.
According to the transportation department, parking would have to be eliminated in order to improve sight lines for the bicycles and motorists. In some stretches of Milwaukee, parking demand would exceed supply, the department said.
Department engineers reportedly have expressed concerns about the feasibility of implementing barrier protected bike lanes, which were presented at the open house as part of option “C.” Some business owners have complained that not allowing vehicle access to the curb would hamper truck deliveries, prevent children and the elderly from being dropped off at the curb, and hurt businesses due to a decrease in parking.
The other two options presented at the open house call for fewer changes. In option “B,” a lane of traffic would be eliminated in each direction, but buffered bike lanes, which do not have physical barriers, would be positioned to the outside of parked cars.
Meanwhile, option “A” calls for all existing lanes of traffic to remain north of the expressway and the existing bike lanes on Milwaukee to be made wider. Those existing bike lanes measure about 5 1/2 feet wide and are located to the outside of the parking lane.
All three options include high visibility crosswalks, pedestrian refuge islands and curb extensions, which shorten the distance of crosswalks. Also under the "Complete Streets" project, traffic signal improvements would be made in an effort to improve the flow of traffic, including those instances where lanes of traffic would be removed.
Also being proposed is implementing lane reductions between Higgins Avenue and Gale Street in front of the Jefferson Park CTA Terminal, 4917 N. Milwaukee Ave.
The lane reductions in front of the terminal would allow for buffered bike lanes that would be located to the outside of the parking lane. Rush hour parking restrictions would be lifted, and a left-turn lane at Higgins for northbound Milwaukee traffic would be installed, and a right-turn lane at Gale for southbound Milwaukee would be put in.
Also under consideration is installing a northbound bike lane under the railroad viaduct, just to the north of the Kennedy, and a bus-bike shared lane for southbound traffic under the viaduct.
Traffic safety improvements also are planned for where Carmen Avenue, Milwaukee Avenue and Northwest Highway converge just to the south of the parking garage for the 16th (Jefferson Park) District Police Station, 5151 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Arena has said that speeding is a problem on Milwaukee due in part to the unusually wide roadway in Gladstone Park and that the project is intended to get more drivers to obey the 30 mph speed limit. Businesses would benefit from the changes because more bicyclists and pedestrians would use Milwaukee as it becomes safer for all roadway users, and motorists would be more likely to notice stores if they are driving slower, according to Arena.
The department plans to take feedback from the open house and make revisions to the project. A follow-up community meeting is expected in late summer.
Department representatives said that plans presented at the open house would be posted at the city’s Web site by July 3, but they were not posted as of early this week.