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22nd Ward Residents May Opt for an East-West Greenway in PB Election

5:02 PM CDT on April 2, 2014

Residents brainstorm transportation ideas at a community meeting. Photo: Sonya Eldridge, The Gate

This morning, we reported that 49th Ward residents may be able to vote to build a north-south neighborhood greenway through Rogers Park using their ward's discretionary "menu funds," in the ward's participatory budgeting process. It turns out 22nd Ward constituents may also be able to vote for an east-west greenway in the Little Village area as part of an upcoming PB election.

49th Ward Alderman Joe Moore pioneered participatory budgeting in Chicago five years ago. To spread the gospel to his colleagues, he helped organize a PB conference last year at the UIC Forum. 22nd Ward Alderman Ricardo Muñoz and his staff attended, along with reps from Southwest Side nonprofits like Enlace Chicago, a community development organization. “We were impressed by what we heard at the conference,” said aldermanic aid Abdul Hassan. “There’s a history of community engagement and organizing in the 22nd Ward, so the alderman thought [PB] would be a good fit.”

In December, Muñoz hosted several public meetings in different neighborhoods, where residents brainstormed ideas for improvements they’d like to see in the ward. Committees formed to address ideas for parks and gardens, public art, health and safety, streets and alleys, schools and libraries, and transportation. The committees are vetting the ideas with the relevant city agencies and creating cost estimates.

As in Moore’s district, $1 million of the $1.3 million in menu money will be available for PB projects, with the remaining $300,000 set aside for cost overruns and emergencies. As in the 49th Ward, Muñoz’s constituents will vote for what percentage of the PB money should be used for meat-and-potatoes work like street resurfacing and lighting repair, and what should be used for more innovative projects. Hassan guesses residents will opt to spend a good chunk of the PB funds on repaving the ward’s pothole-ridden streets. “I know that’s going to be in high demand due to the rough winter."

A final 22nd Ward community expo to discuss the projects on the ballot takes place on Thursday, April 24, 3-7 p.m. at Little Village Lawndale High, 3120 South Kostner. Voting for the roughly 25 proposals will take place from May 1 to 6 in various locations throughout the ward.

The proposed neighborhood greenway would be built on a couplet of parallel, neighboring east-west streets, running 1.3 miles from Kedzie to Keeler, according to transportation committee facilitator Genaro Escarzaga. 28th Street runs westbound, while 30th Street is eastbound – oddly, there’s no 29th Street between them. The route is included in the city’s Streets for Cycling Plan 2020 and runs past the Enlace offices at 28th and Harding.

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Looking west on 28th Street at Central Park.

The committee has met with Chicago Department of Transportation staff to discuss the greenway project and is working on getting cost estimates. One funding option would be to simply use PB money, which could pay for a simple treatment with shared-lane markings and route signs.

Alternately, the ward money could be used as the required 20-percent local match for a federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement grant. That would allow for more ambitious street changes such as traffic circles and bumpouts to discourage speeding by drivers. However, due to the CMAQ funding cycle, construction wouldn’t take place until 2016, Escarzaga said. He added that, independent from the PB process, the city plans to upgrade existing conventional bike lanes on 26th Street, from Pulaski to Kostner, to buffered lanes.

Residents had also proposed installing heated bus shelters along 26th, but the city’s budget office rejected the idea since such a design wouldn’t match the thousands of shelters installed as part of Chicago’s contract with the ad company J.C. Decaux, Escarzaga said. Also, most of the sidewalk on that stretch of 26th is too narrow to accommodate shelters.

Other projects on the ballot could include viaduct murals, park improvements, new fences, and a proposal to install decorative metal fixtures to street lamps on Cermak and Ogden, west of Pulaski to the city limits. These attachments, designed in collaboration with the Chicago Public Art Group, would include the street names and a triangular motif, paying homage to the North Lawndale enclave these streets define, known as "The Triangle."

“It’s a really tight-knit community,” Hassan said. “Families have lived in the same houses for generations, so I think this would be exciting for a lot of people in the neighborhood."

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