Neighborhood Greenway on Austin Ave. among 45th Ward budget initiatives
by BRIAN NADIG
A “neighborhood greenway” with bike lanes on Austin Avenue between Elston and Northwest Highway and pedestrian bumpouts near Hitch School are among the items which will on the 45th Ward’s participatory budget ballot in 2016.
Alderman John Arena (45th) is one of a few aldermen who hold a community vote to determine how most of his or her ward’s annual allocation of $1.32 million in discretionary funds is spent. The vote, which is for ward residents age 14 and over, will be held 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturday, May 7, at the Wilson Park fieldhouse, 4630 N. Milwaukee Ave., and early voting will be available Monday through Friday, May 2 to 6, at the ward office, 4754 N. Milwaukee Ave.
The funds must be used for capital improvements, and one of the questions on the ballot will ask what percentage of the funds should be spent on side-street resurfacing. In recent years about 55 percent of the budget has gone toward resurfacing.
In past years, community groups have taken an active role in getting initiatives on the ballot and then encouraging residents to vote for those projects, and this year the new Gladstone Park Neighborhood Association saw several of its suggestions placed on the ballot. “I think the neighborhood association has been able to reengage the neighborhood on neighborhood issues, and it’s great to see,” Arena’s chief of staff Owen Brugh said.
The proposed greenway on Austin would include approximately 4 ½-foot wide bike lanes which would be painted green to help make them more noticeable. About $60,000 in discretionary funds is being asked for the project, but additional funds from the city Department of Transportation would be required for the project.
Brugh said that bike lanes along this stretch of Austin makes sense given that it connects to existing bike lanes on Milwaukee Avenue, Northwest Highway and Elston Avenue and to a pedestrian bridge over the Kennedy Expressway. It would be the first street in the ward to part of the city’s neighborhood greenway program, he said.
The project also would include elevated crosswalks on Austin that would be “an inch or two” higher than the rest of the roadway, Brugh said. “It’s a huge connector route for kids going to Hitch and Saint Tarcissus,” he said.
Another item on the ballots calls for pedestrian bump-outs along Bryn Mawr Avenue in front of Hitch School, 5625 N. McVicker Avenue., at a cost of up to $150,000. The cost of the bump-outs, which shorten the length of a crosswalk through a curb extension, would depend on drainage issues which could be caused by the altering the curb at those locations, Brugh said.
Another ballot item this year calls for the planting of 150, 300 or 450 trees at a cost of $540 per tree. The proposals calls for some of the trees to be planted on Milwaukee in the Gladstone Park business district and at Farnsworth School, Independence Park and Robert Square Playlot Park.
Additional projects include the installation of ornamental lighting on Lawrence Avenue between Avondale Avenue and Milwaukee at a cost of $390,000 and the repaving of Avondale between Lawrence and Ainslie Street at a cost of $335,000.
The repaving project would include the installation streetlights and a sidewalk along a stretch of Avondale that resembles more of an alley than a street, Brugh said. That stretch of Avondale runs behind the Coperncius Center, 5216 W. Lawrence Ave, and Northwestern College, 4829 N. Lipps Ave.
Also on the ballot are requests for $30,000 for improved lighting at the viaduct on Milwaukee over the Kennedy Expressway, $32,200 for 14 decorative trash cans, $200,000 for curbs and sidewalks at various locations in the ward and $230,000 for a new sidewalk and curb on Lawrence along the south side of Jefferson Park. The park project also calls for two benches near the park’s fieldhouse, 4822 N. Long Ave.
Another request calls for $60,000 for a pedestrian-refuge island on Lawrence at Lavergne Avenue, near Thuis Park. This project was on last year’s ballot but did not receive enough votes.
Details on each ballot item will be available at project expos that Arena will be hosting this month. They will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 13, at Hitch School, 5625 N. McVicker Ave., noon to 3 p.m. Saturday, April 16, at the Fischman Liquors Annex, 4774 N. Milwaukee Ave., and 6 to 8 p.m. Monday, April 18, in the banquet room at Las Tablas Colombian Steakhouse, 4920 W. Irving Park Road.
One of last year’s winning projects called for the installation of bike lanes on Milwaukee between Addison Street and Lawrence. Work on the project is scheduled for this year.