On Saturday city officials and community leaders broke ground on a new streetscape on Lawrence Avenue (4800 N.) between Western Avenue (2400 W.) and the North Branch of the Chicago River (2900 W.) While it's a little disappointing that the project doesn't upgrade the existing paint-only bike lanes to protected ones, a long-awaited Neighborhood Greenway side street bike route is slated for construction next year a block south on Leland Avenue (4700 W.) And the Lawrence streetscape does include some pedestrian upgrades, plus a short stretch of contraflow bike lane on Francisco Avenue (2830 W.) that will make it a little easier to get to and from the North Shore Channel Trail.
The $11.8 million initiative, is bankrolled by tax-increment financing money and the city's Chicago Works infrastructure fund. It's slated for completion in spring 2024.
“This project will create a safer space for people walking and biking and more inviting for the small businesses that are essential to Lawrence Avenue," said Chicago Department of Transportation commissioner Gia Biagi in a statement. "CDOT worked closely with the 40th Ward and community stakeholders throughout this project, and we look forward to seeing it come to life."
Perks for people on foot will include wider sidewalks, new wheelchair ramps and crosswalks, curb bump-outs to shorten pedestrian crossing distances, and a pedestrian island at Francisco, which will also make it easier to get to and from the contraflow lane. The project also includes new community identifiers, street lighting, parkway trees, parkway pavers, and a new "community gathering space" – a small plaza with a few benches – at the northeast corner of Lawrence and Washtenaw (2700 W.) avenues.
In addition the streetscape involves repaving the street; new curb and gutter; drainage improvements; new signs; traffic signal upgrades, and new pavement markings. But there won't be any major changes to the Lawrence bikeways.
"Through the Lawrence Streetscape, along with the $16 million Lincoln Avenue Streetscape and Arts District project, the Leland Greenway, and improvements to Western, the neighbors of Lincoln Square and Lincoln Avenue North will see what I envision to be a rejuvenation of the whole neighborhood that will make for safer streets, bustling business districts, and an improved quality of life,” said said 40th Ward alderman Andre Vasquez in a statement.
While it's something of a bummer that biking on Lawrence itself won't really be improved as part of the streetscape project, we can look forward to being able to legally ride in both directions on Leland, a chill street just a stone's throw away, next year.
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.