A truck delivering food to a bar parks in a shared lane used by cars and bikes along a narrow stretch of Milwaukee Avenue in Wicker Park. Credit: Alisa Hauser/Block Club Chicago

WICKER PARK — Tuesday is the last day for 1st Ward residents to submit ideas on how to spend $1 million in infrastructure funds. 

The office of Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st) has spent the last several months collecting ideas via an online portal run by the University of Illinois Chicago.

“We wanted to open up the process to the ideas and concepts that are coming out from our neighbors, and people have really leaned into it this time around,” La Spata said. 

So far, almost 40 proposals have come in, including repaving the intersection at Division and Wood Streets, adding a sidewalk to Moorman Street and installing trash cans at various locations throughout the ward. 

Others call for building more protected bike lanes and installing a left-turn signal on Augusta Boulevard when turning onto Ashland Avenue.  

The funds will be distributed from the 1st Ward’s “menu money” that aldermen usually spend at their discretion to fund infrastructure projects. La Spata says participatory budgeting is a way to democratize that process, and in turn, learn about new projects.  

“We really believe in the kind of democracy that involves our neighbors, more than just on election day. We really want to give people more direct influence over the decisions that I make that are impacting their lives,” La Spata said. “The goal is to be really funding a lot of these ideas out of our 2022 menu money.” 

After the ideas are collected, residents will spend the month of September formatting them into official proposals. 

“These proposals will be more detailed and assessed for feasibility with any departments that will need to be involved (typically the Chicago Department of Transportation),” 1st Ward Policy Director Nicholas Zettel wrote in an email. 

After proposals are developed, residents will be able to vote on their favorites in October. The most popular ideas will be funded, depending on their cost and logistical complexity.

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