Yesterday, I attended the 2nd of 3 neighborhood meetings to discuss development plans for 38th and Illinois. I was able to share some ideas with the meeting organizers to make the project as successful as possible.
I firmly believe that 38th and Illinois will not be a truly successful neighborhood node without reigning in the 6 lanes of traffic that currently divides the neighborhood. BackÂ in 2007, when the project was new, Aaron RennÂ knew that not altering the traffic configuration meant that the project would not be a game-changer. In a way, it’s unfortunate that a lot of money was already spent to make it attractive, as these streetscape projects don’t come around very often. And apparently there was no money left over for maintenance, as many curbs and planters are damaged from vehicle crashes. And really, do you want to cross this street on foot?
The street is certainly better than it was. It was measured progress to get rid of the utility poles, delineate crosswalks, plant trees, and incorporate the Maple LeafÂ insignia. No doubt that it was one of the least attractive streets in the city before. Today, it’s a pretty stroad, trying to be both an arterial commuter route and neighborhood street at the same time.
However, adding lanes ofÂ parallel parking and curb bumpouts at the intersections would serve at least 5 purposes here:
- Calm traffic
- Cut down the time for cross the street
- Create a layer of pedestrian safety
- Mitigate the need for businesses to maintain their own off-street parking.
- Cut down on curb cuts which also hurt the street’s walkability
Parking has been mentioned as an issue for redevelopment in these meetings, and most urban planners I’m familiar with seem to believe that parallel street parking is the optimal place to have it. Also, the Purple LineÂ busÂ will hopefully eventually run down the street, which will ideally replace some of the vehicles and help alleviate the congestion that may occur.
I realize that this will be a tough sell to many in the area, and that this is the only true east-west arterial for many blocks. But if Love at 38th does not somehow deal with this issue, then I fear the current form of 38th Street may still be a hindrance to the initiative.