SOUTH LOOP — A South Side neighborhood once known for its fancy auto dealerships now has a pedestrian-friendly look thanks to city investments.
Michigan Avenue between Cermak Road and 24th Place — part of the area known as Motor Row — has been reduced to three lanes, had its sidewalks widened and received landscaping, LED smart lighting and improved crosswalks as part of an $11 million, multi-year project that recently wrapped up.
Motor Row also has new benches, trash receptacles and bike racks as part of the project; they’re upgrades that will benefit walkers and neighboring businesses, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said at a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday at Revel Motor Row, 2400 S. Michigan Ave.
Lightfoot championed the project as one of the city’s tools to “enhance public safety,” as the updated streets are expected to reduce the number of people killed by drivers.
“Investment in the infrastructure of our neighborhoods is an investment in improving public safety, encouraging economic development and deepening racial equality. They are all intertwined,” Lightfoot said.
Calls to make the roads safer have taken on renewed urgency in recent weeks, as drivers killed a number of pedestrians and bicyclists — including two toddlers, an 11-year-old and a 15-year-old — in June in Chicago. City officials recently announced they’ll upgrade all protected bike lanes so they have concrete barriers by the end of 2023.
The city wants to install and improve 10 other streetscapes in neighborhoods across Chicago; $584 million will be set aside for streetscapes, from which $146 million will be focused on traffic safety efforts, officials said.
Crews broke ground this week on a streetscaping project in Lakeview, and three more projects are underway, said Gia Biagi, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Transportation.
“We’re building a city more accommodating to all road users — pedestrians, cyclists, scooters and people inside cars. … We know that our streets are much more than the asphalt that we drive on,” Biagi said. “It’s the crosswalks, sidewalks, lighting and the infrastructure that creates a safer, livable, more prosperous community.”
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