To: Ald. John Arena, Alderman, 45th Ward

Make Milwaukee Avenue safer for all

Follow the recommendations of the Chicago Department of Transportation to make this section of Milwaukee Avenue between Lawrence and Elston safer for pedestrians, children, handicapped, senior citizens, and bicyclists. Put Milwaukee Avenue on a road-diet.

Why is this important?

This section of Milwaukee Avenue on the northwest side has long been used as a four-lane expressway, encouraging high speed traffic. According to CDOT, in the last five years there have been 970 crashes on this stretch, including one fatality and 17 serious injuries. The road diet would change the street to two travel lanes and a turn lane, plus protected bike lanes, which could reduce crashes by 30 percent, CDOT’s Nate Roseberry said at a recent meeting.

Removing one lane for cars and providing a center left-turn lane will make the road safer and will not hinder traffic. Two recent example of this: a lane was removed from Dearborn Street in downtown Chicago, thru the entire length of the loop. Similar road diets on Chicago streets have already proven successful in reducing speeding. For example, last year the transportation department installed protected bike lanes on a broad stretch of Vincennes between 103rd and 84th, which often functioned as a de-facto four-lane street and was plagued by dangerous driving and crashes. The project reconfigured the street as two clearly defined travel lanes and a turn lane, plus the protected bike lanes. After installation, average motor vehicle speeds between 7 and 8 a.m. dropped from 38 mph to 32 mph, the number of speeders was reduced from 624 to 390, and the number of vehicles going over 40 mph dropped from 192 to 54.

Studies have shown that traffic moves just fine on two-lane streets with center turn lanes that see 20,000 or fewer motor vehicles per day, which is consistently the case on this stretch of Milwaukee. The road diet will likely have no negative impact on traffic flow. However, because there is currently too much capacity on Milwaukee north of Lawrence, speeding is encouraged, which results in the high crash rate.

Average motor vehicle speeds estimated would from 38 mph to 32 mph, the number of speeders would be reduced and the number of vehicles going over 40 mph would drop significantly.

Reducing the speed and making the lanes available for slower traffic actually enhances and improves business for many of the small independent businesses in this area. People travelling slowly actually see the many business available - they don't see this when travelling at high speed and needing to keep their eye on the road.

Other features of the project could include new pavement, traffic signal coordination to facilitate vehicle flow, and redesigned bus stops that will make it easier to pick up passengers without blocking traffic. An additional community meeting will be held this spring, with construction starting in late 2014 or early 2015.