The Chicago Department of Transportation has been busy working to improve Milwaukee Avenue from Logan Square to Belmont and released design concepts for better safety and comfort for the community. In a new study, CDOT is partnering with community members to identify traffic improvements that plan to make the neighborhood safer and inviting while preserving the Logan Square Boulevard’s history—an official Chicago Landmark District.
According to the project, the study’s mission is to update Logan Square “in a way that maintains its historic integrity and meets the needs of the area’s diverse residents, businesses, and commuters.” It will also add more green and public space, help reach Vision Zero by 2026 by upgrading traffic safety and cater to the various modes of transportation, bikers and booming businesses.
CDOT held a second public meeting Jan. 30 at Avondale-Logandale Elementary School (3212 W. George St.) to show the community what the team has come up with to make the square and Milwaukee Avenue more accessible and up-to-speed with other populated city areas. Fifty-three percent of residents drive, 35 percent take public transit and 12 percent either bike, rideshare or walk, according to the U.S. 2015 Census American Community Survey, which took into account different transportation methods. The study’s area includes two blue line stations, four Divvy bike stations and six bus routes.
The project is now mid-way through its progress; after the presentation and community feedback from the meeting and online, the team will select a final direction, prepare a final design and start construction in 2020. There are two options for Milwaukee Avenue and four concepts for the square.
Concept 1 would add dashed bike lines to the Milwaukee strip like it already has between Division and Western, in order to give more space to bikers and make them more visible for drivers. It would also shorten the distance for crosswalks by extending the curb. Concept 2 would give even more safety to bikers with separated bike lanes on the sidewalk but have parking only on one side of the street to make room for the larger bike lanes. This would add two-stage left turn boxes at some major intersections for bikers. It would also have raised crosswalks for pedestrians to improve visibility and safety.
The square’s concepts were more thorough and attracted the most attention from residents. Many huddled around the blueprints for the square’s upgrade and asked the engineers and CDOT staff working very specific questions. As a central area to the neighborhood—and one quite congested—fixing the square’s traffic and access is important to most Logan Squarites. In fact, there are four concepts on the table for it. All of them add more green and public space and upgraded crosswalks and bike lanes.
Concept 1 would add bike facility space at Kedzie and Milwaukee by giving the bike lane more space. It would also reduce pedestrian crossing distances and have Milwaukee traffic go through the square. Concept 2 would re-route Milwaukee traffic around the square instead to create more public space and add separated bike lanes around it as well. However, giving these features more space would condense the street parking around the square. It would also add a streetlight at Wrightwood and Kedzie, and redesign the intersection at Kedzie and Milwaukee to reduce turning speeds.
Concept 3 would keep Milwaukee traffic going through the middle of the square but add two-way traffic on the west and south sides. It would eliminate some roadway from the north and east of the square to make room for public space at Logan and Milwaukee’s left turning lane. Like the first two concepts, it would have dashed or separated bike lanes, reduced crosswalk distances and consolidated street parking.
Concept 4 is a combination of all the above. It would re-route traffic around the square and open up the middle space for more greenery, add raised crosswalks and keep the proposed stoplight at Wrightwood to better control the two-way traffic. The unique part here is it would have bigger separated or dashed bike lanes around the square but that go both ways on one side of the street to get to Kedzie or Logan without going through the park—though that would probably still be an option for some. The larger public space would create a more European-style plaza and offer extra buffer space for businesses and residents in the community. That said, it would be a two-way traffic zone for cars and bikes while eliminating some street parking.