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.
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.”