WEST LOOP — After years of planning, a $2.9-million project to improve Madison Street in the West Loop is being funded.
The streetscape project will add speed bumps, elevated intersections, pedestrian islands and beautify sidewalks on Madison between Halsted Street and Ogden Avenue.
The project is being funded by the 27th Ward’s local impact funds under the city’s Neighborhood Opportunity Fund, which allows developers to build taller and denser buildings in exchange for paying into a city fund.
The project was picked by the city’s Department of Planning and Development, beating out four other projects vying for the money.
West Loop residents voted for which project they preferred to see funded in May. One poll occurred during a community meeting May 23 and the other was an open survey that ran from May 24-June 6.
Randolph Street improvements and the Madison streetscape project had the most support in the survey. Ultimately, the city’s planning department decided to fund the Madison streetscape project.
Randolph Street improvements were passed over for funding because the project would require approval from the Illinois Department of Transportation. It’s possible the improvements could still be funded by the Kinzie Tax-Increment Financing (TIF) District, according to a Department of Planning and Development spokesperson.
The Madison Street improvements can’t be funded with TIF dollars and was a “more implementable short term” project, the city official said.
The funding is a big win for the West Central Association, which has advocated for the revitalization of Madison Street for many years. The push for improvements was first announced in 2017 as part of a larger project to turn Madison Street into a “vibrant main street” for the West Loop.
“The streetscape is about pedestrian safety, slowing down traffic but also about beautification of the area,” said Armando Chacon, president of West Central Association. “This is about looking to the future and having a street that aligns with the future of the neighborhood.”
The Chicago Department of Transportation will be refining the project scope and developing a construction timeline early next year, according to a city website.
In 2019, the city spent $400,000 to remove concrete planters in the median along Madison street that West Central Association officials said were dilapidated and falling apart. Originally the Madison streetscape improvements were supposed to closely follow the planters’ removal but was put on hold for several years while other projects were prioritized by the city for funding, Chacon said.
The association had been in talks with the city’s planning department about funding the streetscape when 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.
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