Residents vote on participatory budget
by BRIAN NADIG
Bike lanes on Milwaukee Avenue, outdoor gathering spots in the Six Corners and Jefferson Park shopping districts, and crosswalk improvements were among the winners in the 45th Ward participatory budget vote that concluded on May 2.
The 4-foot-wide bike lanes will be installed between the parking lane and the traffic lane on Milwaukee between Addison Street and Lawrence Avenue at a cost of $60,000. Eliminating rush-hour parking restrictions on Milwaukee has created a permanent parking lane, allowing enough space for bike lanes, according to Alderman John Arena.
The bike lane proposal received 203 votes from residents, the highest for any of the nine proposals on the ballot. The top seven vote getters are expected to be funded, and this year 447 ward residents voted, about 65 fewer than in 2014.
The ward is one of three in the city in which a community vote is held to decide how most of the ward’s annual allocation of $1.32 million in discretionary funds, which must be used for infrastructure projects. Voters also determined that about $550,000 will go to resurface about 10 blocks of side streets.
A proposal for lighting and pedestrian improvements under the Kennedy Expressway at Pulaski Road and on the sidewalk next to the Kennedy from Pulaski and Dakin Street to Byron Street and Parkside Avenue received 200 votes. The project will cost $45,000.
A proposal to spend $30,000 for “people spots” at Six Corners and near the Milwaukee-Lawrence and Lawrence-Austin intersections received 171 votes. The project will include the installation of a raised platform with furniture and decorative elements that will take up a parking space and that will be removed in the winter, Arena’s chief of staff Owen Brugh said.
A proposal to spend $88,000 for curb extensions known as pedestrian bumpouts at crosswalks at several intersections, including Milwaukee-Cuyler, Milwaukee-Warner, Milwaukee-Giddings, Central-Balmoral and Central-Leland, received 168 votes. The extensions shorten the distance of a crosswalk, and the planned bumpout at Central and Leland avenues will require eliminating rush-hour parking restrictions in order to create a permanent parking lane where the extension can be installed
A proposal to spend $60,000 for a pedestrian refuge island on Cicero Avenue at Pensacola Avenue received 163 votes. The island is intended to help people who walk to the Mayfair Metra station, 4357 N. Cicero Ave.
Proposals to spend $100,000 for an artificial turf field at Disney II elementary and high schools and $100,000 for a handicapped accessible playground at Farnsworth School received 154 and 152 votes, respectively. Additional funding sources will be used for those projects.
Each voter could choose up to four projects. Proposals for a shed for a community garden at Laramie Avenue and Ainslie Street and a pedestrian refuge island at Lawrence and Lavergne avenues received fewer than 150 votes and are not being funded under the discretionary budget.
The Lawrence-Lavergne island may be funded through another source, and there are reports that garden supporters are considering holding a fund-raising drive for the shed, Brugh said. Also, a campus park improvement plan for Hitch School was dropped from the ballot because the cost of project could not be confirmed, but it may be considered for next year’s discretionary budget, he said.
Participatory budget volunteers are investigating ways to increase voter turnout in 2016, Brugh said.