Ped Improvements Made by School on Busy Chicago Avenue, More Are Needed

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The Chicago Academy for the Arts. Photo: Anna Weaver

Over the summer administrators and parents from the Chicago Academy for the Arts, a private school located at 1010 West North Avenue contacted us about their campaign to improve pedestrian safety near the school. In particular they were concerned about the Chicago/Milwaukee/Ogden intersection, one of the most crash-prone in the city, located a block west of the school.

For example, Anna Weaver, whose 14-year-old son attends the school, was worried that it was unsafe for him to cross Chicago south on Ogden after classes to access an CTA bus stop just east of the six-way intersection, in order to ride home to the Near North Side. She said the administrators and parents of nearby had contacted the city’s 311 line, local alderman Walter Burnett, and the Chicago Department of Transportation several times asking for crosswalks at the six-way to be restriped plus other safety improvements, but had seemed to make no traction.

In September I asked CDOT spokesman Mike Claffey about their request. I also inquired about plans to simplify the confusing signal patterns for northwest-bound traffic at the south leg of Milwaukee/Ogden – something Streetsblog’s Steven Vance has been advocating for for years, which CDOT had previously said was in the works.

The next day Claffey responded:

We sent someone to take a look at this today – based on that, are going to have the contractor refresh the markings on the south crosswalk across Ogden as well as the crosswalk at Chicago and Carpenter [an unsignalized intersection at the southwest corner of the school]. We are also going to do a traffic study and see if there are signage recommendations that will improve the intersection – and will prioritize installation of signs per those recommendations.

We’d have to wait a little longer for improvements to the signal, Claffey said. “It seems to be a little complicated.”

At the end of October, school administrator Judith Feldman provided us with an update. By then CDOT had refreshed crossways at Chicago/Carpenter and Chicago/Sangamon (a block east of the school) and installed a few neon-yellow pedestrian crossing signs and a “School Zone” sign. Feldman said she’s pleased with these improvements but would also like to see additional warning signs on Chicago and some of the cross streets.

In the longer term the school administrators and parents are interested in getting some electronic speed feedback signs installed on Chicago, as well as speed cameras, although it doesn’t look like CDOT will be putting in new cams anytime soon.

Steven noted that a pedestrian island on Chicago near the school would be a good idea, especially since a new residential building with over 300 units and a grocery store is planned for the former Gonnella Bread baker site across the street, which means there will soon be much more foot traffic.

He also noted that CDOT has labeled Chicago Avenue a “Crosstown Bike Route,” but hasn’t designed any bike lanes for the street. Bike lanes would require a road diet on the wide street, but that would also be effective for improving walkability, Steven added.

It’s good to hear that some progress has been made towards improving safety by the school. Hopefully we’ll see more pedestrian infrastructure and traffic calming here in the near future.

  • Kimberly Anne

    My daughter went to school at The Chicago Academy for the Arts and I have also worked there. It is truly a bad traffic situation. Why doesn’t the city simply put a STOP sigh at the intersection of Chicago and Carpenter where there is now a cross-walk and ped warning sign. If there was a stop sign, the traffic that feeds into Chicago Ave. at high speed off the expressway would have to stop at the corner where the school is. Likewise, traffic from the east – heading to busy Ogden or the expressway – would also need to stop. This cross walk takes students and others most directly to the #66 bus east-bound stop. It would also be an expedient way for all pedestrians to get over to businesses on the south side of Chicago – especially CVS and the bank. This cannot cost that much for the city. As it stands now, there are parents demanding the school hire and pay for a crossing guard which unfair to the school community as it would raise school expenses and, I assume, put the school in a position of potential liability.

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