One of road diet options off table
by SEAN KEENEHAN
Gladstone Park residents were told at an Aug. 19 community meeting held at Saint Tarcissus School that one of the proposals for a Milwaukee Avenue safety project which calls for a "road diet" that would remove a lane of traffic in each direction and for the installation of protected bike lanes along the curb is "not viable at this point."
The residents, who packed the parish auditorium, cheered the announcement, which was made by Alderman John Arena’s chief of staff Owen Brugh. The proposal also would have led to the elimination of 20 percent of the street parking on Milwaukee in the area.
Arena’s decision leaves two remaining options for the stretch of Milwaukee Avenue between Central Avenue and Elston Avenue.
"Option A" would keep all existing lanes of traffic and parking would remain along the curb, with the width of the existing bike lanes increased. "Option B" would slow traffic by eliminating one lane of traffic in each direction and adding a left-turn lane in the middle of Milwaukee, while parking would remain along the curb with buffered bike lanes to the outside of the parking lane, adding several feet of space on either side of the bike lane without any physical barriers.
Arena is expected to hold a community meeting on the $1.5 million project later this year before a decision is made. Asked which of the two remaining options Arena favors, Brugh said at the meeting that "the alderman supports slowing down traffic on Milwaukee Avenue."
Brugh cited safety concerns as well as speeding and accident statistics to defend Arena’s position, while some residents expressed opposition about any lane reductions on Milwaukee, saying that traffic congestion would increase and local businesses would suffer.
"Bike people aren’t going to generate revenue for local businesses," a resident said, while another said that eliminating a lane in each direction would force businesses to close.
The "Chicago Complete Streets" project is intended to slow traffic between Lawrence Avenue and Elston Avenue, making Milwaukee Avenue safer for motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians. All of the options include crosswalk improvements, with construction expected to begin next year, and as part of the project a road diet has been proposed for the stretch of Milwaukee between Higgins Avenue and Gale Street.
Also being considered is installing a northbound bike lane under the railroad viaduct north of the Kennedy and a bus-bike shared lane for southbound traffic under the viaduct.
Also at the meeting, a representative of the Fair Allocation in Runways coalition presented options for addressing aircraft noise, and residents expressed opposition to a proposed new "high end" liquor store at 5636 N. Milwaukee Ave. Residents oppose the proposal because they say there are too many liquor stores in the area.
Surveys were distributed at the meeting asked whether a Gladstone Park Neighborhood Association should be formed. Information is available at www.facebook.com/friendsofgladstonepark.