Last year, residents of the 45th Ward, made up largely of the Jefferson Park neighborhood, had the opportunity to vote for a number of outside-the-box transportation projects in the ward’s participatory budgeting election. Most of those proposals, including bike lanes on Lawrence and Milwaukee, and on-street bike parking corrals, didn’t win, but voters did opt to spend $125,000 of the ward’s $1.3 million in discretionary “menu” funds to install a new pedestrian crossing light at the Jefferson Park Transit Center.
This year, in the ward’s second PB election, there are fewer livable streets projects to choose from, but the proposal to stripe buffered bike lanes on Lawrence, from Cicero to Long, is back on the ballot. Voters can also opt to replace the fences on a pedestrian bridge over the Kennedy that serves the Gladstone Park Metra station.
Alderman John Arena’s chief of staff Owen Brugh says Arena decided to bring back the PB process this year because last year’s election succeeded in getting constituents more involved with their community – over 650 people voted. “This is the taxpayer’s money, and the taxpayers should have a direct voice in how we’re spending it,” Brugh said. “This really gives them the power to make important decisions that will affect the ward for years to come.”
Other winning projects from 2013 included viaduct remediation and pigeon abatement, an artificial turf playing field at Beaubien Elementary, 5025 North Laramie, viaduct lighting, a new shed for a local community garden, street repaving and streetlight upgrades. Much of this work has been completed. However, the pedestrian signal at the transit center, which will also improve access for CTA buses, hasn’t been installed yet. Instead, it will be rolled into an upcoming complete streets project on Milwaukee from the transit center to Elston, which may include a road diet and protected bike lanes.
This year, community brainstorming sessions for the PB election began in October. Brugh says not many bike proposals made it onto the ballot this year because most of the ones that did last year garnered relatively few votes. Although bike corrals won’t be an option for voters, he noted that in nearby Portage Park, the Six Corners Business Association is working to install corrals near the Irving Park/Cicero/Milwaukee intersection.
Other proposals on the 2014 ballot include a new playground at Independence Park, Jefferson Park-branded banner holders for light poles on neighborhood business strips, and renovations to the tennis courts at Wilson Park, 4630 North Milwaukee. “Those courts are in a pretty sorry state at this point,” Brugh said.
There will be community expos to introduce the proposals on April 22 at Disney Elementary, 3815 North Kedvale, and April 23 at St. Tarcissus School, 6040 West Ardmore, with both events taking place from 6:30 to 8 p.m. A third expo with be held on April 26 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., at a location T.B.A. Residents can vote early from May 5 to 9 at the ward office, 4754 North Milwaukee, and final voting takes place May 10 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Wilson Park.