WEST LOOP — The West Loop’s chamber is working to improve safety on Madison Street after a driver killed a cyclist there last month — but it’s uncertain if the plan will include bike lanes.
The Madison streetscape project has been in the works for years, but the West Central Association-backed plan was put on the back burner until shortly before a driver fatally hit cyclist Paresh Dinesh Chhatrala April 16 near Madison and Peoria streets. His death has renewed calls from residents and bicycle advocates to make the street safer.
The Madison streetscape plan is part of a larger project announced in 2017 to turn Madison Street into a “vibrant main street” for the West Loop. It would add speed bumps, elevated intersections and pedestrian islands, which the West Central Association’s members think will protect bicyclists and people walking.
In 2019, the city spent $400,000 to remove concrete planters in the median along Madison Street after the association said they were dilapidated and falling apart. The plan was to phase in the Madison streetscape project next, which included many pedestrian safety improvements, but it was put on hold for several years as other West Loop projects were prioritized by the city, said Armando Chacon, president of the West Central Association.
Talks with the city’s planning department about enacting the Madison streetscape plan resumed in early April, two weeks before Dinesh Chhatrala was killed, Chacon said.
In the wake of Chhatrala’s death, some residents have questioned why the plan still doesn’t include bike lanes.
Madison Street’s width would make it difficult to add bike lanes alongside bus lanes and on-street parking, officials from the West Central Association said. Chacon said bike lanes are something the association will consider with the help of a design consultant if the next phase of the streetscape gets approval from the city.
“We want to stress pedestrian safety. The question is, can we also fit in … bike lanes?” Chacon said. “And clearly, the community seems to want that. And I think that’s going to be a question if this project moves forward.”
Alds. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th) and Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th), whose wards stretch along parts of Madison Street, said during the meeting they support the streetscape project.
The proposal will be discussed during a May 23 community meeting hosted by the Department of Planning and Development to get feedback on local priorities for unused Local Impact Funds. The Madison Streetscape project is one of several that will be considered, Chacon said.
If ultimately chosen, the project will be done in two phases. Phase one will include the construction of pedestrian islands along the median, pedestrian bump-outs and landscaping to improve stormwater runoff. The second phase will include planters, seating and lighting.
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