Traffic safety improvements part of area plan
by BRIAN NADIG
Ways to improve traffic flow and safety could be among the recommendations in the Jefferson Park Master Plan when it is finalized early next year.
Making the street network safer where Foster Avenue crosses Northwest Highway, Milwaukee Avenue and Gettysburg Street has been one of the focuses of the planning process, said project consultant Scott Goldstein of Teska Associates.
In that area, there are five signalized intersections and two others within a block radius. There were 384 accidents between 2011 and 2015 in that area compared to 121 for the Milwaukee-Lawrence intersection, which is less than a block from additional traffic signals where Milwaukee crosses Ainslie Street and Higgins Avenue.
Currently westbound Foster as it approaches Milwaukee jogs north onto Gettysburg Street, where Foster then resumes. Vehicles which do not make the jog can go straight and remain on a short stretch of Foster, or spur, which dead ends at Milwaukee and runs along the north side of the 16th (Jefferson Park) Police Station, 5151 N. Milwaukee Ave. It is not uncommon to see drivers cut straight through Milwaukee and the Verizon store parking lot, 5212 N. Milwaukee Ave. to get to Northwest Highway.
One of the improvement options under consideration calls for a new traffic signal to be installed at the spur and Milwaukee as part of a plan to reroute westbound Foster onto Northwest Highway.
Northwest Highway and the spur are not aligned evenly, but that could be changed, Goldstein said. The realignment, along with the new traffic signal, would allow easier access from the spur to Northwest Highway, from which motorists could rejoin Foster to the north, he said.
The new traffic signal also would assist vehicles turning south onto Milwaukee from the spur, Goldstein said. "Right now there’re CTA buses that have to make a left turn without a (traffic) signal," he said. However, it is important to note that roadway improvements at major intersections such as the ones being proposed often take years if not decades to implement.
It is not known which traffic recommendations will make the final plan, but one of the keys to improving traffic flow and safety is creating a traffic pattern which reduces left turns or makes turning safer, Goldstein said.
So far there have been two community meetings in which feedback on the master plan has been gathered, and a final meeting is scheduled for January before the plan is presented for approval to the Chicago Plan Commission, Goldstein said.
The plan will include design guidelines for potential development sites, but it has not been determined whether those guidelines will be of a general nature or include specific zoning, height or density recommendations, Goldstein said.
Currently there are plans for about 300 new apartments near the Jefferson Park CTA Terminal, 4917 N. Milwaukee Ave., with additional redevelopment plans in the works for several parcels across from the terminal. It was reported at the Oct. 16 master plan meeting that some residents have told project consultants that there is a lack of townhouse construction in Jefferson Park.
The master plan also is expected to make recommendations on creating pedestrian-friendly and streetscape improvements, attracting more businesses to the area and marketing Jefferson Park. Business and community groups may be asked to assist with goals which will be outlined in the plan, Goldstein said.
At the Oct. 25 meeting of the Jefferson Park Neighborhood Association, members expressed concern about whether the plan would adequately reflect the views of the community. They said that development recommendations should be thoroughly vetted before the plan is presented to the commission given the volatile nature of zoning.
Suggestions for the plan can be sent to project consultants via the Web site at www.accessjeffpark.org.