Water Work May Pave Way for 2-Way Bike Lane
The alderman’s office says they’ve made strides in the last week toward plans to create a biking ‘greenway’ down School Street. It would limit driving on the street, add street details and be a biker’s paradise.
West School Street is one step closer to a major makeover that would limit driving to create a Neighborhood Greenway with a two-lane biking path, Ald. Tom Tunney’s (44th) office says.
The development is a part of both the alderman and the Chicago Department of Trasportation’s plan to create an east-west biking corridor from Lake Michigan, through Lake View and into Roscoe Village. This project, however, would almost completely transform a one-way street into a two-lane biking corridor.
Sougata Deb, Tunney’s director of infrastructure and special projects, says he and the alderman met with the Commissioner of Water Management Thomas Powers last week. When they discovered the water mains beneath School Street are more than 100 years old, plans to convert the corridor into a bike-friendly Greenway were thrown into the spotlight.
“The alderman informed the commissioner of our plans to convert West School Street into a Neighborhood Greenway, which is contingent on resurfacing West School Street,” Deb said. “(The) last thing we want is to install new bike lanes, only to have them removed a year later to resurface the street. Commissioner Powers was kind enough to move up the proposed water main project on West School (from) Ashland to Halsted to 2014.”
Because crews plan to use money from the Department of Water Management's fund to repave the street after replacing the mains, Tunney’s office can use money set aside to resurface School Street to help fund the Neighborhood Greenway. That means adding things like curb bump-outs to put a squeeze on traffic, new signage and more.
"The last thing we want is to install new bike lanes, only to have them removed a year later to resurface the street."
And because the street is city-owned and isn’t focusing on creating buffers or protections from traffic, it doesn’t fall under the Illinois Department of Transportation’s new hold on Chicago’s bike lanes.
The two-way bike corridor down School Street would connect bikers with already bustling lanes running north and south, like North Halsted Street, Clark Street and Lincoln Avenue. But rather than simple bike lanes, the proposed lanes would be more similar to the Berteau Greenway in Ald. Ameya Pawar’s (47th) ward.
Deb said the plan is still tentative, but CDOT is already aware of the latest developments and are pleased with the progress. And while the plans are still tentative, neighbors will get a say in the finished product.
“There would be a community process to make sure everyone’s comfortable with the idea,” Deb said in December. “And we’ve gotten great feedback on it so far. We talked with people on School from Ashland to Southport, and they were very supportive.”
Tunney’s office plans to push for the water main project to begin in early 2014, and Deb says he’s hoping to get CDOT on School Street immediately following the project’s completion.