Pedestrian improvements near Farnsworth mulled
by BRIAN NADIG
The Jefferson Park Forward Community Development Committee is trying to get pedestrian improvements near Farnsworth School and traffic improvements at the intersection of Foster and Leclaire avenues.
Committee chairman Dennis Davis said that pedestrian bump-outs, which are curb extensions that shorten the distance of a crosswalk, have been sought for Central Avenue at Balmoral Avenue. Farnsworth School, 5414 N. Linder Ave., is located a block east of Central.
The installation of the bump-outs was approved several years ago as part of a 45th Ward participatory budget vote. However, the city Department of Transportation reportedly did not endorse the project because it would prevent the parking lane from being used as a traffic lane during rush hour, as the bump-outs would block the parking lane.
Currently, parking along that stretch of Central is prohibited on the east side in the morning and on the west side in the evening. Last year the parking restrictions on both sides of Central south of Higgins Avenue were lifted to allow for the bump-outs.
"CDOT rejected our request for pedestrian bump-outs at Central and Balmoral due to rush-hour parking restrictions, which they believe are warranted there, especially in the afternoons," Arena’s chief of staff Owen Brugh said. "We’re trying to find other solutions to that difficult stretch of Central."
The committee may write a letter to the transportation department asking it to reconsider its decision, Davis said. Efforts also have been made to install bump-outs on Central at Catalpa Avenue, a block north of Balmoral, he said.
"There’s a lot of kids crossing (Central)," Davis said.
Farnsworth principal Barbara Oken said that there are crossing guards on Central to assist children on their way to and from school but that additional safety measures would be helpful, especially given that the school’s new playground will be attracting families in the evenings and on the weekends.
Plans call for an artificial playing surface, play equipment, a running track and a garden. Construction of the approximately $1.5 million project is expected to start this summer and be completed by October, Oken said.
Meanwhile, traffic improvements are being sought near the Smart Child Preschool, 5100 W. Foster Ave., ., Davis said.
"There’s been several accidents there, hitting that daycare," Davis said.
Plans call for new roadway markings that would delineate the parking lane from the traffic lane to be painted on Foster in an effort to keep traffic away from the building, which is located at the northwest corner of the Foster-Leclaire intersection.
"Foster and Leclaire has been complicated because Foster is an IDOT (Illinois Department of Transportation) road, and IDOT regulations prohibit guardrails or bollards within 10 feet of the curb except on curves," Brugh said. "They were lax in enforcing this in the past but have become much more stringent within the last year."
In other news, Davis reported that the committee is "brainstorming ideas" for the design of a planned pedestrian walkway and plaza across from the Jefferson Park CTA Terminal, 4917 N. Milwaukee Ave. To accommodate the project, the city plans to vacate the section of an alley which runs along the south side of Weston’s Coffee and Tap, 4872 N. Milwaukee Ave.