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After success of Leland Slow Street, Alderman Rosa seeks input on Palmer

10:02 PM CDT on June 9, 2020

Bilingual flier seeking feedback on the Palmer Slow Street proposal.

The Leland Slow Street (the city is calling it a "Shared Street), which opened on May 29 between Lincoln Avenue and Clark Street in Lincoln Square and Uptown, has proven to be very popular with residents. On any nice day you'll see adults commuting to work by bike, pushing strollers, walking dogs, and jogging, as well as families and children cycling, skating, and scooting, all with enough room for for social distancing.

While through traffic is banned while the temporary initiative is in place, motorists are still allowed to use the street for parking, deliveries, pickups, and drop-offs. Most seem to be doing so mindfully, driving at slow speeds and keeping an eye out for pedestrians. And residents appear to be doing a good job of social distancing while they use the corridor for transportation and recreation, rather than congregating on the street in an unsafe manner.

The Leland Slow Street. Photo: John Greenfield
The Leland Slow Street. Photo: John Greenfield

Josh Mark, director of development and infrastructure for local alderman Matt Martin, says the 47th Ward has gotten plenty of positive feedback about the project, and just about the only negative comments have been from people who'd like to see the street go completely car-free. Mark said Martin is interested in doing additional Slow Streets in the district, which also includes parts of North Center.

Omari Bektemba, a volunteer on the ward's Zoning Advisory Council, said the Leland treatment is so popular that some some residents are asking that it be made permanent.

Alderman Andre Vasquez of the neighboring 40th Ward said today there's a possibility of extending the Leland Slow Street west towards the Chicago River in his district. He added that there's discussion of doing Slow Streets on other roadways in the ward, which includes parts of Lincoln Square, Edgewater, and West Ridge.

The Leland Slow Street. Photo: John Greenfield
The Leland Slow Street. Photo: John Greenfield

Meanwhile in the 35th Ward, which includes parts of Logan Square, Avondale, and Albany Park, Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa is asking for community input on the Chicago Department of Transportation's proposal to do a Slow Street on Palmer Street from Long Avenue, by Hanson Park, to Kedzie Boulevard, by Palmer Square park.

According to a new bilingual post on Rosa's website, "Each [Slow] Street will initially be installed for 30 days during which time we will gather community feedback, collect data, and conduct observations to evaluate how each street is working.  CDOT will work with local aldermen and neighbors to determine whether a Shared Street should be extended an additional 30 days or not." It appears that CDOT had not publicly stated this policy before.

35th Ward residents are invited to call or text the 35th Ward office at 773-985-3510, or email ward35[at] Ward residents are also invited to participate in a conference call on Thursday, June 18, at 6 p.m. to discuss the proposal with Rosa and CDOT planners. They can call, text, or email the ward office to RSVP and receive conference call information.

Carlos Ramirez-Rosa
Carlos Ramirez-Rosa

The Palmer Slow Street would also lie within the 36th Ward (Gilbert Villegas), the 26th Ward (Roberto Maldonado), and the 32nd Ward (Scott Waguespack). If you live on or near the corridor but aren't sure which ward you're in, use the city's ward finder tool to find and contact your alderman to let them know how you feel about the project.

Rosa told Streetsblog that on Thursday his office will distribute a bilingual handout to all properties along Palmer within between Spaulding and Kostner). "We would distribute this handout earlier this week but the rain has put a damper on our plans and we don't want the handouts to get destroyed.

Rosa noted that CDOT's map of public input on pandemic transportation issues collected via the email address showed that no one had responded from the local 60639 ZIP code as of May 25. CDOT recently told Rosa they'd only received one more email from the zip code since then. "Sixty-four percent of the proposed Palmer [Slow] Street passes through 60639, which... is a majority-Latinx ZIP code that has been hit hard by COVID-19. This makes our bilingual outreach efforts critically important." Rosa added that 46 percent of the proposed Slow Street passes through the 35th Ward.

After the conference call next Thursday, Rosa will review all the community feedback and send a final recommendation to CDOT on Friday, June 26. "If a majority of residents are in support of this Shared Street passing through the 35th Ward, then CDOT will deploy their temporary interventions and signage sometime in early to mid July. CDOT has already agreed to include Spanish language signage on this Shared Street, should it move forward."

So there's the timeline. While the Palmer Slow Street won't be happening for a few weeks, Rosa has expressed general support for Slow Streets in the past, so assuming there's no major pushback from the community, 35th Ward residents should be able to enjoy more safe space for social distancing by July.

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