Will The Stretch Of Milwaukee Between Logan Square & Avondale Finally Be Pedestrian-Friendly?
By Stephen Gossett in News on Aug 31, 2017 2:11PM
An initiative to create public space and improve user-friendliness and safety along a stretch of Milwaukee Avenue that runs from Logan Square to Avondale is underway—and it could potentially include some ambitious makeovers.
The initiative—which follows a series of upgrades along the Milwaukee Avenue corridor in Wicker Park (including much-coveted bike lanes)—targets the leg of Milwaukee Avenue between Belmont Avenue and West Logan Boulevard, which includes the stretch of the avenue within the Logan Square circle, at the intersection of Kedzie, Logan and Milwaukee.
One big change on the circle for which some community members have been pushing for years is at least on the table at this early stage: converting the stretch of Milwaukee inside the Logan circle to a pedestrian plaza, and reworking the traffic flow into a “true” roundabout. Other improvements being floated for the corridor, between Logan and Belmont, include new lighting, signal modernization, crosswalks, bike lanes, and bump outs.
Proposals for a pedestrianized Milwaukee within the circle date back at least to 2014’s Bicentennial Improvements Project—a framework that Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) said he “heard a lot of support for” at a community meeting to gather public input on potential changes, which drew several dozen, at Logandale Middle School on Wednesday evening . “That is something the engineers are considering. Ultimately the data and best practices have to support it,” Rosa said.
“People also want to increase pedestrian safety and more can be done to address that,” added Rosa, who described the project, as discussed with Chicago Department of Transportation engineers, as a “soup to nuts reworking” of the Logan-Avondale Milwaukee stretch.
Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) expressed support for a more thorough fix for the Logan circle than what’s been done in the past. (The circle itself falls in Waguespack’s ward and immediately abuts Rosa’s ward on the northwest edge.) “The key for us is to make sure that improvements on the square are done in a way that’s more significant than we’ve seen before,” said Waguespack. “We’re working as closely as we can with the residents who put out the Bicentennial plan,” said Waguespack, who also noted that departmental and leadership turnover had proven a hurdle in the past in trying to keep such proposals on the front burner. (Chicagoist has reached out to the CTA, as potential Milwaukee closures would affect bus routes, and we'll update as necessary.)
The overall re-work project for the Logan leg of Milwaukee is “much more extensive in scope” than the quick-hit improvements we saw for the avenue in Wicker Park, according to Nathan Roseberry, a coordinating engineer with CDOT.
Many of the attendees at Wednesday night’s meeting expressed support for a ped-friendly “circle” overhaul.
Cutting off traffic there was the top wish-list priority for Ryan Burke, 31, a three-year Logan Square resident, who said he’d like to see full pedestrianization of Milwaukee extend all the way to northwest to the Diversey intersection.
Carrie, 66, a 34-year neighborhood resident, also invoked the Bicentennial Improvements Project and advocated nixing vehicular traffic through the circle along Milwaukee. The self-described preservationist said, as is, “the madness of the circle” had become “dangerous and ahistorical”—with some of the intended green-space user-friendliness lost by the traffic that cuts through.
Suggestions also included moving the Logan Square Farmers Market inside the circle, should it be revamped.
While a potential circle revamp would certainly be the most dramatic step, it wasn’t the only thing on community members’ minds at the meeting. Nick Disabato also stressed the need for traffic calming techniques between Kimball and Belmont and perhaps contraflow lanes on the local lanes of Logan Blvd. Resident Ryan Burke described the Kimball-Diversey-Milwaukee crux as a “nightmare.” That intersection saw the most crashes of any within the frame of study between 2011 and 2015, according to CDOT. Matt Nardella, a Logan Square resident and founder of architecture firm Moss, is hoping for bike lanes along Milwaukee. (According to CDOT, the width along much of the corridor is 66 feet, the same that allowed for “dashed” bike lanes on the avenue in Wicker Park.) The percentage of residents along Milwaukee between Logan and Belmont who bike to work is higher than the city's average, according to CDOT.
The study—which is funded by federal dollars and matched by local and Cook County support—will allow for more public input ahead of the development stage. A follow-up meeting, at which CDOT will summarize information, put forth analysis and present alternatives, will likely happen sometime this winter. Specific timeline targets were not yet finalized, according to CDOT.