Details Unveiled for Lawrence Avenue Streetscape

By Laura Pearson | Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Existing streetscape conditions on Lawrence Ave. east of Western. Photo courtesy Ald. Eugene Schulter.

Lawrence Avenue is yet another street in the 47th Ward that will undergo a major facelift (as previously reported), and now more details of the project have emerged. Starting next spring, the Chicago Department of Transportation will transform the section of Lawrence between Western and Ashland avenues into a three-lane street, with one lane headed west, one east, and a left-turn lane in the center.

This conversion is designed to make the street more bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly. The project includes designated bike lanes, wider sidewalks, pedestrian refuge ares (concrete islands in the middle of crosswalks where there’s no traffic light), and bump outs (places where the curb juts out into the street to create a larger buffer zone for pedestrians).

“For the first time ever, Lawrence Avenue will have a bike connect that will give residents, not only in the 47th Ward but elsewhere, the opportunity to safely get to the lakefront by staying on Lawrence Avenue,” said Ald. Eugene Schulter (47th).

Aesthetic upgrades such as trees, benches, community identifiers, and improved lighting are also part of the streetscape plan, which will eventually extend from the Chicago River east to Clark.

Compared to the Clark Street and Irving Park streetscapes, both already underway, the Lawrence Ave. improvement project is the most extensive.

Proposed streetscape conditions (not finalized) on Lawrence east of Western. Photo courtesy Ald. Eugene Schulter

It’s also the most expensive. The Clark Street project costs $7.4 million, and the Irving Park beautification effort $6 million. Lawrence Ave. will cost $10?$12 million.

Schulter thinks it will pave the way for further economic development in Lincoln Square, Ravenswood, and Andersonville. “It’s a wonderful opportunity, from a planning point of view, to create incentives for businesses to locate,” he said.

He also believes the infrastructure improvements will work well with the new Metra Station to be located north of Lawrence on Ravenswood. He said that while the projects are separate, “It’s kind of like the stars and the constellations are getting together and giving us the opportunity to address the multiple issues that the community has [about the Metra station]?dealing with left-turn lanes and whatnot on Ravenswood and Lawrence Avenue.”

The project is slated to wrap up in 2012.

Update (7/12/10): The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) is not certain when it will break ground on the Lawrence Avenue streetscaping project. CDOT spokesperson Brian Steele said, “2011 at the earliest; no specific date is set, and we are still pursuing construction funding for the project.” Regarding whether CDOT has made a plan for how it will work around the Ravenswood Metra Station construction (and how this will affect traffic), Steele said, “That coordination will occur once we are closer to starting construction. As we do with all our large-scale projects, CDOT will coordinate with other nearby construction projects with the goal of minimizing the impact of construction on both motorists and pedestrians. Exact traffic impacts are TBD, but Lawrence will certainly see lane reductions in areas where work is ongoing.”

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  • Kathleen Prause

    Wow! Who can I call to complain about this? While I think it is wonderful to have pedestrian and bike friendly streets–Lincoln Square has those on Wilson and Foster. Lawrence is one of the city’s big streets and should stay that way. It is going to be a traffic nightmare, especially since there are already backups going from 2 lanes each way to 1 at Western.

    • ravenswood ray

      easy solution… drive less. bike more.

      • Kathleen

        I maybe drive once a week and live in Lincoln Square because it is a walkable community. Yet that isn’t a reality for a lot of people including those that drive through Lincoln Square on a daily basis. Obviously the city thinks people will continue driving a lot or else they wouldn’t be pushing such a big parking lot next to the new Lawrence Metra station.

        Hopefully in the end this will be a positive improvement for the community and more businesses will want to be located on Lawrence as well as the people in the neighborhood that have a nice looking streetscape.

        • Jeff Judge

          This is a great thing for the neighborhood. I live off Hoyne and it’s dangerous cross Lawrence through most of the day – we have to wait up to five minutes sometimes to wait for traffic to die down and be able cross the street.

          I also think this will give a huge boost to Lawrence avenue businesses between Ashland and Western – as is it’s a difficult environment to survive. I’ve seen three businesses go under in the past few months (Stefanos Pizza, a middle eastern cafe and an Italian cafe).

    • Mike

      Jeez, give me a break. Lawrence is only two lanes in each direction between Ashland to Western. That’s eight blocks — one measly mile. Calm down and take a few deep breaths. Knocking a couple lanes off is not going to make traffic at Western any worse than it already is. If anything, maybe this will spread the traffic out and slow people down. As it is now, people gun it down Lawrence and then bottleneck at Western.

  • Arm

    Pricey project for sure, but should really help to improve this hood. Hopefully businesses will take notice and move in to one of the 15 or so vacant store fronts between Ashland and ravenswood. I would love to walk 2 blocks to go eat or shop versus going to Lincoln square or Andersonville.

  • Laurie

    I agree with Kathleen – who can I complain to. Not only is it going to be a traffic nightmare but if they are going to spend so much money on this project why not make bike lanes that are ACTUALLY SAFE. That white line doesn’t do enough. When cars are double parked and you’ve got oncoming cars swerving into your lane…you need a place to swerve as well. That winds up being the bike lane. How many people need to get hurt(or worse) before they realize this is a terrible idea. I know – people need to be more alert, slow down, drive safer, etc. but the fact is most drivers are not doing this. In fact it seems worse now. If you hit another car it may only be a fender bender, annoying and potentially expensive, but not a big deal. If you hit a bike – it could be tragic. They should put the bike lane between the parked cars and the side walk – separated from the cars by a curb.

    • John O’Grady

      This is the right idea!!! Create a buffer zone of parked cars between the bikes and the motorized traffic. There will still be a chance I get doored, but I can ‘live’ with that…

  • Katie

    This is a really bad idea! Traffic on Lawrence is horrible to begin with, and will just get worse if there’s only one lane in each direction! As already mentioned, pedestrians and bike riders already have plenty of routes as alternates to Lawrence, and I’ve never had any problems as a pedestrian.

  • Dawson

    This is excellent. Can’t wait!

  • Lee

    This is a great idea. Glad to see the city put more priority on creating a welcoming pedestrian environment and better accommodating cyclists. And “road diets” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Road_diet) like this very often have no impact on traffic volume — or even result in a higher vehicle capacity. I don’t believe it’ll make traffic any worse. Faster does not mean better — roads can usually handle more traffic volume when everyone isn’t speeding and they’re going at a steady pace. The turn lanes can also reduce disruptions, where currently people stop and constantly change lanes, causing more traffic.

  • Maureen

    No one has mentioned the buses? How will the buses be incorporated into this plan? With one lane in each direction, the problem of being stuck behind a bus will exacerbated… furthermore, will the bus turn into the bike lane to discharge and pick up passengers? I think that this needs to go back to the drawing board.

    • http://spudart.org spudart

      Oh no. Having to wait for the bus. Oh dear. Unless if you are driving children around, perhaps people need to be on the bus, instead of behind it. Now I know that automatic response will be, “I need my car for _____.” True. But I also know of many single people who simply drive for the convenience. Well, in the city, we take buses. We bicycle. We walk. If someone truly needs a car, then so bet it. Cars can fit in too. But I really wish people who don’t need to drive won’t drive as much.

      I don’t mean this to be about you specifically, Maureen, I’m just simply replying to the first comment on the board. You do make an interesting point about the bus entering the bike lanes. But that’s just standard practice for all streets with bike lanes and buses. As an occasional bike rider, I have no problem with the bus entering the bike lane to drop someone off. I simply let the bus go ahead of me.

      And that’s the general rule of thumb that would be nice for everyone to have… to let others go ahead of you first.

  • Becky

    Bad idea. This is going to create traffic nightmares. Maybe they keep the two lanes but only have parking on one side and the bikes can have the parking lane on the other?

  • Mike

    I disagree with the posters who claim this will turn into a traffic nightmare. While it surely won’t help traffic, I don’t see this turning into a nightmare. People follow the path of least resistance when driving. When Lawrence loses it’s lanes, drivers will find other paths such as Foster.

    Lawrence is downright ugly between Western and Damen. This will be a welcomed facelift. Hopefully the businesses will move in soon after.

    • Jeff Judge

      I agree 100%

    • Klay

      Foster is already very congested so I don’t see that as a solution.

  • Jack

    Not a good idea. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I live right near there and I need to drive around the neighborhood. I wish I could “drive less, bike more.” Let’s be realistic. Why are we spending precious resources for beautification?

  • Russ

    This is a good idea. Lawrence is really run down looking compared to Montrose or Irving Park. This plan could really help create a corridor between Lincoln Square and Andersonville.

    If traffic is your biggest concern, you’d move to the suburbs.

  • TJ

    This is great news!!! I think everyone should relax it will make the area look better, improve value, and probably improve the shopping area…As for traffic, I don’t think it will be that bad! Good time to learn how to use public trans, bikes, or just walk!

  • Dave

    This is an abysmally bad idea. It’s great that folks on here who don’t drive want to shut down two lanes of traffic. But for those of us who use Lawrence Avenue everyday to get our kids to daycare, school and ourselves to work, as well as those who actually want Lawrence to be used for commerce (like say the new Sears store), I can assure you that we will avoid this stretch of Lawrence like the plague (the way we now avoid Lawrence West of Western). Instead, we will be pushed with our cars onto the side streets like Winnemac, and away from the stores Gene would like us to patronize. Dumb dumb dumb. And yes, we will try and stop it.

  • Anonymous

    This is my main means of traveling toward the lake and downtown (from the Rockwell Crossing area). Anything that improves the current state of Lawrence Avenue is a step in the right direction. Lawrence needs help – count me in.

  • Anonymous

    “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

    It’s broke.

  • Anonymous

    My guess is that it will create additional traffic on Montrose first.

    In any case – something has to be done with Lawrence.

  • Anonymous

    How about reducing the parking space area by ‘angle parking’, leaving room for bus stop in the 100 feet, placing a curb between drivers and bike lane and where bike lane is pinched by ‘angled parking’ create a narrow but well defined and partitioned bike/pedestrian sidewalk area. The sidewalk could be extra wide in areas not used for bus-stop, parking, or bike lane and leave some room for trees and planters, etc.

  • Anonymous

    Why Stop at Western ? Lets take it to the river. That’ll have to be addressed by the Greater Rockwell Organization I suppose… digging a little deeper into the grass roots.

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