LOGAN SQUARE — A water main project on Logan Square’s Armitage Avenue that has dragged on for six months and caused headaches for people along the stretch could finally wrap up in the next few days.
Armitage Avenue between Kedzie and Western avenues has been reduced to one-way traffic since January as crews replace the street’s century-old water main, part of the city’s larger effort to upgrade old water mains.
The city’s Department of Water Management was aiming to finish construction earlier this month, but the project was delayed because of bad weather, supply chain disruptions and scheduling issues with utility companies, city spokeswoman Megan Vidis said.
Now the project is targeted for completion by the end of June, Vidis said. Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st), who represents most of stretch, warned against relying too heavily on the city’s completion date because the project timeline has been pushed back at least twice.
The end can’t come soon enough for some neighbors and small business owners.
With the street closed to westbound traffic and dozens of parking spots eliminated, navigating and parking in the area have proven difficult. The construction has also stirred up dust clouds that have made walking the street unpleasant, some said.
Havana Cigar Convenience Store at 2947 W. Armitage Ave. has seen a significant drop in sales since construction began, store manager Paula Lopez said.
Lopez said the store sometimes only makes $100 a day, about $400 less than it typically made on summer days last year, and the owner is thinking about selling the business.
“The owner is not making anything out of it,” Lopez said. “He’s keeping it open just for the people who work here. He has to pay us out of his pocket.”
Business is down 40-50 percent at New Kedzie Cleaners at 3138 W. Armitage Ave., owner Mauricio Ortiz said.
Further east, new skincare and wellness shop The Sunday Standard at 2837 W. Armitage Ave. also is feeling the effects of reduced foot traffic. It opened in November, just a couple months before the construction project began.
Owner Emma Zwissler said she chose Logan Square’s Armitage Avenue because it’s a busy corridor that’s home to a lot of small businesses; but so far, the street hasn’t lived up to expectations: far fewer people have been walking around with the construction.
“This is a hard time already to be a business owner. There’s a lot of other things going against smaller businesses right now, so having the street closed for almost six months is definitely not lovely,” Zwissler said.
Meanwhile, drivers are routinely finding dangerous work-arounds, endangering themselves and others, neighbors said.
“Our alley has turned into a super highway going westbound,” neighbor Phil Renda said. “If I’m pulling out of my garage, we’re not able to go east because of the high level of cars.”
Renda, who lives on Armitage Avenue at Point Street, recently put up a quirky sign on his fence, poking fun at the lengthy city project. The sign is a play on the classic Uncle Sam poster, “I want YOU for the U.S. Army.” It reads: “I want YOU to finish Armitage.”
“The whole purpose of the sign was joint commiseration,” Renda said. “When I’m out doing stuff in the front yard, I hear people laugh and take a photo of it because we’re all in it together, we’re all suffering through it.”
La Spata said he “really and truly empathizes” with business owners and neighbors who are struggling to navigate the street.
“We have worked consistently, as an office, to provide information on this, to provide accountability to the Department of Water Management on getting this work done,” La Spata said. “I want [neighbors] to know that they are not alone in feeling their frustration on this.”
Not all neighbors are complaining about the construction. In fact, some said it’s led to a vastly improved pedestrian experience because there are fewer cars on the road. They said negative experiences have been overblown.
Neighbor and urban planner Jeremy Glover analyzed the city’s bus speed data in Bucktown, Logan Square and Hermosa and found there was “no real change” on the surrounding arterial streets after Armitage Avenue was converted to one-way traffic. Armitage Avenue east of Western Avenue also was shut down due to construction last year.
Glover, who until recently worked for Metropolitan Planning Council with a focus on transportation policy, said while he didn’t do a “scientific” analysis, it’s a strong indication that repurposing lanes doesn’t lead to worse traffic.
“A common argument against reducing lanes is that the traffic will just go elsewhere and jam other roads up. We know that’s not true, and the data here, in my view, show it, Glover said.
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