Can we fix Route 66? New project aims to make Ogden Avenue more people-friendly
The first public meeting of the INVEST South/West Ogden Avenue Corridor Improvements project took place last week at the Stone Temple Church in North Lawndale. The project includes Ogden – part of the legendary old Route 66 itinerary between Chicago and LA – between Pulaski Road and Western Avenue. It’s being coordinated by the Chicago Department of Transportation in cooperation with alderpersons Michael Rodriguez (22nd), Monique Scott (24th), and Jason Ervin (28th.) Since Ogden Avenue is a state route, the Illinois Department of Transportation will also be involved.
“The… project is an opportunity to reimagine Ogden Avenue as a multimodal transportation corridor, as a hub for community activity, and as a catalyst for economic development,” stated a flier handed out at the event. “The goals of the project are to improve safety for all users of this corridor, repurpose and activate public spaces, and transform this corridor into one that reflects the unique identity of North Lawndale.”
The initiative seeks to make Ogden a better corridor for walking, biking, and transit. Upgrades could include improving “roadway geometry,” intersections safety, and crosswalks. In addition to repaving the road, CDOT will install new sidewalk and curbs; bike facilities, and potentially repurpose the parallel service drives. There will also be new street lighting, traffic signal upgrades, pavement markings and signage, paver parkways, and wheelchair ramps. In addition the department will install neighborhood gateway elements, street trees, and landscaping.
“It’s a very exciting project for the 24th Ward,” said Scott. “It is time to reimagine Ogden Boulevard, and we plan to do this from Pulaski all the way to Roosevelt Road. So it’s an exciting time for Ogden because if you live on Ogden, then you know it’s Route 66, a speedway like a highway. And so, these are going to be some measures to slow that traffic down and also beautify Ogden.”
The planning project is scheduled to continue through winter 2024. According to the handout, Phase I will consist of “community visioning, design development, preliminary engineering, and environmental clearances.” Phase II will involve finalizing the design and engineering plans, in addition to construction.
“The reimagined Ogden Avenue should reflect North Lawndale’s priorities and serve the community’s needs,” the flier said. “CDOT is committed to build on previous community input, prioritize transparency throughout the project, and engage in community early and often. To achieve this, we will hold multiple input opportunities, including Community Advisory Group Meetings, ISW Roundtable Updates, Community Workshops, Public Meetings, and Public Surveys.”
The first advisory group meeting occurred last winter, while a Community Workshop is scheduled to take place this summer. During last week’s meeting, there were multiple ways to provide feedback. Residents can also provide input via an online survey and an interactive map.
“I’m looking forward to the next engagement opportunities and letting our other neighbors know about how they can weigh in and provide feedback,” said attendee Apriel Campbell. “The biggest concern I have leaving here is that I know there is a low [computer] literacy rate here in North Lawndale.” She said the digital divide may be a barrier keeping many residents from providing feedback online. “So maybe if they had more events where people can talk with people who will record their responses, that might be more helpful.”
At the meeting there were five tables with five different input activities. At one table, there was a map where people could write comments on Post-It notes regarding community challenges and assets along the corridor and stick them on the map. At another, attendees could write what they wanted to see on poster boards. A third was for filling out a survey. And another allowed kids in attendance to talk about their neighborhood in drawing form while also learning about bike safety.
The next public meeting and survey are scheduled for the second quarter of Phase 2, which will be in spring 2024. Information from the recent public meeting will be available on the project website for anyone who might have missed it in about a week or so. You can also email any comments to info[at]improveogdenave[dot]org.
Said attendee Eric Lindsay, “I’m looking forward to them posting everything on the website in about a week so I can download it, take a look at it, analyze the subject, and have more input or more importantly, to be able to send it out to other community residents as well and solicit their involvement because it was just a small sample of the community at this meeting.”