NORTH CENTER — Six intersections along Irving Park Road are getting long-planned upgrades, an initiative the local alderman pushed forward after one of his volunteers was hit and killed crossing the street last year.
The improvements along Irving Park include new pedestrian refuge islands at Hoyne and Bell avenues, said Josh Mark, director of development and infrastructure for Ald. Matt Martin (47th).
Other improvements include new crosswalks at Maplewood, Claremont and Hermitage avenues and a curb extension at Greenview Avenue, he said.
Construction is expected to begin in the spring, Mark said.
“Greenview is right in front of Lakeview High School and it has a record of a lot of crashes. Literally, the kids at the high school have asked us to make changes,” Mark said.
The stretch of Irving Park Road long has been considered dangerous for pedestrians.
Martin’s office recorded an average of six crashes per week on Irving Park Road between Clark Street and the north branch of the Chicago River between 2015 and 2018, Mark said.
Chicago transportation officials targeted the street for resurfacing work in 2019 and Martin’s office began proposing other improvements to boost pedestrian and bicyclist safety, Mark said. But Illinois Department of Transportation regulations on the state-owned road stymied some of the plans, Mark said.
Then a driver hit and killed longtime Martin volunteer Peter Paquette, 75, in June as he crossed Irving Park Road in North Center after leaving an event with Martin and other elected officials.
Paquette was killed hours after hundreds of neighbors rallied for better pedestrian and bicyclist safety after two toddlers were killed in Lincoln Square and Uptown.
Paquette’s death added urgency to the issue, Mark said. Martin continued to push state officials to lift the restrictions that blocked the larger safety improvements. The new state regulations went into effect earlier this month, Mark said.
“Before Peter was killed, we really had trouble getting traction on significant improvements to Irving Park Road that we badly, badly needed and that people have been asking for since I first started in office,” Martin said.
The new rules aren’t limited to the stretch of Irving Park Road in the ward and can also be used to add pedestrian and cyclist safety improvements to other state owned roads in the city, Martin said.
“While it took a little longer than I wanted over the last several months, the outcome is exactly what our community needs,” Martin said.
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