Rogers Park Participatory Budgeting Ideas Include a North-South Greenway

sidewalk repairs
Discussing proposals at a 49th Ward participatory budgeting meeting in 2011. Photo by John Greenfield.

Chicago aldermen traditionally use their $1.3 million in discretionary “menu” money for basic street, sidewalk and lighting improvements. However, this year a handful of wards are holding participatory budgeting elections. These often result in money being set aside for innovative transportation projects, and walking and biking infrastructure is a relative bargain. 49th Ward Alderman Joe Moore, who five years ago became the first U.S. elected official to pioneer the participatory budgeting process, is once again holding a PB election, and a few walking, biking, and transit projects may be on the ballot.

The ward has hosted two community events so far, where residents have had the opportunity to discuss proposed projects. The final meeting takes place this evening at 7 p.m. at St. Paul’s Church by the Lake, 7100 North Ashland. PB committee members will draw upon feedback from constituents to narrow down the candidates to a final ballot, according to Moore’s aid Bob Fuller. Early voting will take place from April 26 to May 2, with the final election happening on May 3. “We’ve been doing this for five years now, and by all accounts things are going smoothly this year,” Fuller said. “But it’s certainly a challenge finding consensus in a neighborhood of 56,000 people.”

The ballot will have a section where residents vote on what percentage of menu money should be spent on street and alley repaving, sidewalk repair and streetlights, from zero to 100 percent. The results are averaged – last year it was 62 percent – and the remainder of the money is awarded to nontraditional projects, according to how many votes they garnered.

The winning proposals in 2013 included funding a $30,000 pedestrian safety engineering study on hectic Sheridan Road, exploring whether bumpouts, signal timing improvements and other strategies could make the street more walkable. Voters also opted to spend $75,000 to install bike-and-chevron shared lane markings on Clark from Albion to Howard. Other proposals that won funding the restoration of cobblestones on Glenwood, and cherry blossom trees and a new water fountain at Touhy Park.

None of the above projects have been finished yet. “It definitely takes more than a year for some things to get done,” Fuller said. The traffic safety study and sharrows are pending the completion of gas line work on Sheridan and Clark.

Red Line Loyola Station post construction
A graphic design was applied to the Loyola and Sheridan intersection by the Loyala campus. Photo: Justin Haugens.

The most exciting proposal for the upcoming ballot is a north-south neighborhood greenway leading from Edgewater to Evanston, which could be similar to the Berteau Greenway in the 47th Ward. The Chicago Department of Transportation is currently putting together a design for the Rogers Park route, which would likely include stretches of Glenwood, Greenview and Ashland, Fuller said. Other transportation proposals include new bus stop benches and high-visibility, decorative intersection treatments. A couple of these were recently installed in the ward, by the Loyola campus.

The ballot may also include proposals for new carpet at the Rogers Park library, improved fencing at local pocket parks, a small Astroturf soccer field at Langdon Park, and a wheelchair-and-stroller-accessible beach path at Hartigan Park. This brand-new park will be built this spring on the lakefront at Albion, on land that’s currently a city-owned vacant lot. Fuller says it will be a quiet park space with seating, landscaping, a short walking path, and possibly a drinking fountain.

  • I rode up to Evanston this weekend through Rogers Park and I had a hard time finding a good way. At some points the street adjacent to the Metra tracks is good, but it’s riddled with potholes, speeding drivers and in some portions it’s one-way. I guess I don’t know a very good way around, so a north-sound greenway sounds cool. It would be nice if it were an *actual* greenway and not as watered-down as Berteau, though.

  • jared.kachelmeyer

    Glenwood gets you part of the way there, then another side street can get you almost to Howard. I don’t remember the exact route off the top of my head but it should be signed.

  • Right, I know it’s signed in a few places. But Clark St isn’t a great bike route, especially between Howard and South Blvd. I always want to find another way around.

  • jared.kachelmeyer

    With the cemetery and the yellow line tracks there just isn’t a lot of through streets. BTW Clark is called Chicago Ave in Evanston and has a bike lane up until maybe South Blvd. I’d like to see better bike lanes though if possible.

  • madopal

    Getting to Howard is pretty well signed using Glenwood/Devon/Greenview/Pratt/Ashland/Fargo/Paulina/Howard.

    Once at Howard, take Howard west to Damen/Custer, and ride Custer up. The back neighborhoods are very welcome, and tons of people ride Custer. Pretty much all the back streets between Chicago & Ridge are very rideable.

    If you want to stay along the lake, you can turn left on Oakton, curve over to where it meets with South Blvd., cross Chicago again, and then take Hinman or Judson north to the beaches.

    I lived at Howard/Clark for years, and Edgewater after that, and there were all kinds of great ways to go North/South that didn’t involve Clark in any way.

    Much easier than the clusterf^%#k that I’ve run into going from Irving Park & Central up to the North Branch trail.

  • Thank you!

  • Adam Herstein

    similar to the Berteau Greenway

    This is what I feared by half-assing Berteau. Now it’s going to be used as the standard for all greenways, and it showed NIMBYs that they can just complain to get projects like this severely watered down. Berteau was already a decent street to ride on, and the greenway treatments did not really improve riding since they just amounted to some extra paint on the ground. The contra flow lane is far too narrow to be safe. The curb extensions are okay, but did not really solve the problem of aggressive driving and the removal of stop signs were enough to counteract any benefits.

    This new greenway in Roger’s Park needs to have traffic diverters and concrete traffic circles at intersections to be successful — the things that were left out of Berteau because of resident backlash. Without making any concessions and not attempting to reduce car traffic, this will just end up being another project that could have been great if the city was willing to inconvenience drivers even a tiny bit for the safety of everyone.

  • Anne A

    Getting to Howard is pretty well signed using Glenwood/Devon/Greenview/Pratt/Ashland/Fargo/Paulina/Howard. Once at Howard, take Howard west to Damen/Custer, and ride Custer up. The back neighborhoods are very welcome, and tons of people ride Custer. Pretty much all the back streets between Chicago & Ridge are very rideable.

    I lived near Fargo/Paulina for years and this was my favorite combo for riding into Evanston. Custer is good until you get close to Main. Crossing Main there is a pain, and lumber yard traffic makes it difficult north of Main.

    My fave route is Custer to Madison west to Elmwood (or Elmwood to Monroe to Custer on the return) and continue north on Elmwood to downtown Evanston.

    From South Blvd. to downtown/NU campus, I also like Hinman a lot.

  • I am hoping we will get some street parking reduction and a diverter on the Leland Greenway. I think the meetings with the initial design will be coming up in a few weeks. Regardless, as I’ve discussed with several people who use Berteau, it is not much of an improvement at all. They could have just put down arrows where the contraflow lane is and it’d be the same, and a lot less expensive. For it to be a true greenway it needs to actually put the cars at the bottom. Since, you know, drivers have literally every other street to drive on, god forbid they lose one mile.

  • Welcome to my world of riding in Rogers Park.

    I don’t like the idea that they will shift the route to three different roads. Greenview is the best option but they must stay on it. You can connect to Jonquil and head west to Clark/Chicago and continue to Evanston if that’s your destination.

  • madopal

    Yeah, I definitely cut over to Sherman on Madison before you get to Main (heading north, coming back, I’d take Washington). Crossing Main/Dempster at lights makes it really easy.

    Again, Anne is right, you can bypass it by taking Oakton back east, have it curve around into South Blvd, cross Chicago, and head north on Hinman or Judson. Beautiful ride up, and you circumvent most of the downtown Evanston traffic. Heading north to the trails from there, you can take Hinman/Judson to Clark, west on Clark to Sherman, and that north. From there it’s an easy jump to either Sheridan or a bit further west to the trail head of the Green Bay trail with some winding through the back streets of Wilmette (if you care, always heading N/W: Sherman/Lincoln/Asbury/Isabella/4th/Greenleaf/Poplar/Green Bay Trail Head).

    Wonderful ride.

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Each of Chicago’s 50 wards gets an annual $1.3 million in discretionary “menu” funding to spend on infrastructure projects each year. Usually the alderman decides how the money is spent and typically most of the money is used for traditional projects like street resurfacing, sidewalk repair, and streetlamp installation. However, the growing participatory budget movement, […]