SOUTH SHORE — The city is retooling a short stretch along one of South Shore’s main commercial strips with a smoother surface, bike lanes and other features, realizing upgrades to the street 15 years in the making.
City crews also will improve pedestrian and bicyclist safety from Jeffery Boulevard to South Shore Drive, creating buffered bike lanes which connect to the Lakefront Trail and installing accessible ramps at the Metra tracks running through the street’s median.
“With the future Obama Presidential Center coming soon, we are going to be ready to welcome people from all over the world to our community,” Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) said in a statement.
Other improvements on the Jeffery-South Shore Drive segment include increasing the visibility of crosswalks, installing 3-foot-tall fencing along the Metra tracks and installing bus pads at transit stops to make the road more durable.
The work is set to wrap up this winter. Previous stages of the 71st Street streetscape project brought new sidewalks, street lights, greenery, furniture and community identifiers to the neighborhood.
“This project will make the corridor safer for everyone, whether they are walking or biking or using transit,” transportation Commissioner Gia Biagi said in a statement.
While the resurfacing of 71st Street goes as far west as Cottage Grove Avenue, the bike lanes, crosswalks and other streetscape improvements will end at Jeffery Boulevard. Jeffery doesn’t have a bike lane, so the lanes will only connect to existing bike infrastructure at the Lakefront Trail.
Once this phase is finished, the next steps include extending the pedestrian and bicyclist improvements to Stony Island Avenue, said Kimberly Webb, Hairston’s chief of staff.
A timeline for future improvements depends on the availability of federal, county and city tax increment financing funds, which paid for the previous and current projects along 71st, she said.
The years-long process of completing the stretch from Jeffery to South Shore Drive “has taken so long because getting all of those [agencies] to allocate funds simultaneously can be a challenge,” Webb said.
The city is developing a plan to extend 71st Street’s bike lanes west to South Chicago Avenue “hopefully in 2022,” Webb said.
Buffered bike lanes were installed along South Chicago Avenue from 79th to 95th streets in 2013 and from 67th to 79th streets in 2015.
The Chicago Department of Transportation is “looking at other options” for extending the bike lanes in the future, spokesperson Susan Hofer said, but she did not provide specifics.
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