Cicero and Lawrence Avenues to Get New Pedestrian Refuge Islands

Cicero and Lawrence Avenues to Get New Pedestrian Refuge Islands


JEFFERSON PARK — Three new pedestrian refuge islands will be built in Portage Park and Jefferson Park with money from two Tax Increment Financing Districts, Ald. John Arena (45th) said.

City traffic engineers approved Arena’s request to spend about $140,000 from the Portage Park Tax Increment Financing District to build two refuge islands at 3832 N. Cicero Ave. near Bernice Avenue and at 3900 N. Cicero Ave. near Byron Avenue in the Six Corners Shopping District.

Many pedestrians dart across Cicero Avenue in the shopping district, where the blocks are elongated by the diagonal intersection of Cicero and Milwaukee avenues with Irving Park Road.

The third pedestrian refuge island will be built at 5200 W. Lawrence Ave., in front of the Copernicus Center, which is which is dedicated to promoting and preserving Polish culture in Chicago and hosts a wide variety of concerts, conventions and community events.

That project, which will also cost $70,000, will be funded by the Jefferson Park Tax Increment Financing District.

The refuge island at Lawrence and Laramie avenues is in a newly designated pedestrian district touted by Arena as part of a plan to reverse decades of decline and fill long-empty storefronts in the Jefferson Park Business District by making the area safer and more welcoming for pedestrians.

Opponents of the pedestrian district designation contend it will do nothing but inconvenience those who have lived in the area for decades and rely on their cars to get around.

The refuge island is also designed make it easier for people to get to the Jefferson Park Transit Center, said Owen Brugh, Arena’s chief of staff.

The measure authorizing the refuge islands is expected to be introduced at the council’s meeting in March, Brugh said.

Drivers must stop for pedestrians under state and city laws.

Tax-increment financing districts capture all growth in the property tax base in a designated area for a set period of time, usually 20 years or more, and divert it into a special fund for projects designed to spur redevelopment and eradicate blight.

As part of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Complete Streets effort, which is designed to “ensure that everyone — pedestrians, transit users, bicyclists and motorists — can travel safely and comfortably along and across a street,” pedestrian refuge islands have been built across Chicago, according to city officials.

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