Logan Square bikeway plans are disappointing, but traffic circle remix is exciting
7:50 PM CDT on March 18, 2021
At a 35th Ward community meeting earlier this week, the Chicago Department of Transportation provided details on street reconfigurations planned for Logan Square, including new bikeways on Diversey and Milwaukee, and the bold reconfiguration of the Logan Square traffic circle. The plans for the bike routes, which include no physical protection for cyclists, represent a missed opportunity to create safer conditions for cyclists in a neighborhood where cycling is widespread. On the bright side, the traffic circle makeover, which also involves pedestrianizing a stretch of Milwaukee and rerouting part of Kedzie Boulevard to create two new plazas and is slated for construction this fall, represents the kind of outside-the-box street design our city needs more of.
Street repaving projects with bikeways
Diversey is getting buffered bike lanes on the mile-long stretch between Central Park and California avenues as part of a street resurfacing project in the ward, CDOT assistant chief highway engineer Nate Roseberry said at the meeting. (Diversey currently has non-buffered bike lanes west of Kimball Avenue.) Curb extensions to shorten crossing distances are also planned. Construction could start as early as July of this year.
"It’s a shame they’re not adding physical barrier to the bike lanes," Streetsblog Chicago co-editor Courtney Cobbs noted. "Drivers will be interacting with a new street design, why not go for the gold in terms of protection for people biking?"
Streetsblog readers also reacted to the news by pointing out that the fact that bikeways tend to be built in short stretches, with the entire project often taking place within a single district of Chicago's heavily gerrymandered ward system, which is one reason our city lacks a cohesive bike network. "Stop building bike lanes in short segments," one advised.
Milwaukee is being rebuilt between Belmont Avenue and Logan Boulevard, likely starting in October, according to CDOT spokesperson Mike Claffey. Protected bike lanes were originally a possibility for this half-mile corridor where, according to a 2017 study, four to seven percent of trips were made by bike. However, the final plan doesn't even include full non-buffered bike lanes, but only dashed bike lanes, which drivers are allowed to temporarily cross into.
That's not surprising, since protected lanes would have required eliminating large amounts of curbside parking on the retail street, although it's worth noting that CDOT did just that on Milwaukee in River West in 2013. Most of the metered spots were replaced by new diagonal parking on side streets.
On the plus side, the reconstruction of Milwaukee in Logan also includes rebuilding the sidewalks and adding raised crosswalks on side streets, which will double as speed tables to calm traffic entering and leaving Milwaukee, as well as new street lights and trees. In addition to curb extensions to shorten crossing distances, the sidewalk will be widened in seven different locations to make more space for restaurant sidewalk cafes. A new stoplight will be added at the intersection of Milwaukee, Haussen Court, and Hamlin Avenue, a block south of Belmont.
Other CDOT repaving projects that involve sections of the 35th Ward include Kedzie Avenue between Foster and Elston Avenues, which will include curb extensions and parking lane line installation, and is slated to start as early as August of this year.
Irving Park, between Kolmar and Ravenswood avenues, will be getting curb extensions, parking lane lines, and pedestrian refuge islands, and the CTA has also proposed changes to bus stop locations to improve bus operations. The work could begin as early as April 2021.
Lawrence, between Elston and Central Park will get curb extensions, and the CTA has proposed moving bus stops. The work is slated for this April.
The Logan Square traffic circle makeover and La Placita
Local residents have been asking for the reconfiguration of the neighborhood's dangerous, confusing traffic circle for many years, and it's finally about to become a reality, with construction slated for October, pending finalization of construction documents and awarding the project to a contractor, Claffey said.
"This is something that is a huge opportunity with our project, to not only be able to rehabilitate the roadway, increase operations and safety, but also provide a new and 'activateable' space," Roseberry said at the meeting. As part of the redesign, Milwaukee Avenue will no longer go through the middle of the circle but will be routed around the north and east side, so that there will be a united green space. Logan will be routed around the south side side, and Kedzie will be routed around the west side.
Pedestrianizing that piece of Milwaukee will unite the square into one large pedestrian space, and the pedestrianized section of Milwaukee will provide a new location for the Logan Square farmers market. Roseberry said CDOT tried to route the square's sidewalks "in a way that maintains the historic integrity."
Accessing the square on foot will generally become a bit easier than it currently is, thanks to new crosswalks, although pedestrian access still won't be terrific. Notably, people walking north to the plaza from the east side of Kedzie will now need to make two crossings to get to the green space, whereas there's currently a direct crosswalk and stoplight to make that move. But that's a fairly minor complaint considering how much nice the square will be when it's no longer sliced up by Milwaukee.
And then there's the creation of a new small plaza north of the circle, east of the Logan Square Blue Line station, dubbed La Placita. It will be a nice complement to the all-affordable transit-oriented development currently being built on the former Emmett Street parking lot site north of the station.
Roseberry said CDOT got requests from the community "for as many Latin elements [in the new plaza design] as we can, [and] we are happy to do so and appreciated the input."
The project includes new pavers, new trees, a new platform area (a stage), a new identifier sign that will be visible as you leave the station and turn to your right, and areas for seating and play. The design also leaves multiple potential spaces for a new gazebo, which neighbors requested, although CDOT cannot install one without a local partner agreeing to maintain the structure.
So while it's a bummer that Logan Square won't be getting robust bikeways as part of the Diversey and Milwaukee projects, it's great that the long-awaited traffic circle remix and La Placita are finally coming to fruition.
In addition to editing Streetsblog Chicago, John writes about transportation and other topics for additional local publications. A Chicagoan since 1989, he enjoys exploring the city on foot, bike, bus, and 'L' train.
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