Lakefront Lunacy

After reviewing the initial “Draft Consensus Plan”, I have
to ask myself whether the "consensus" was one of the consultants paid for by the
city, or the citizens. While there are
many good ideas contained in the plan, there are also some major flaws that
warrant critical review.


The first flaw that I see is the re-routing of Sheridan Road. While attempting to make Patriot’s Park and Lunt Park more connected to the Lakefront is a goal
with good intentions, the “solution” is one that will do more harm than good.


As most citizens are aware, Sheridan Road already creates problems
where it meets Davis. A NASCAR simulation is created as drivers
speed through two 90 degree turns in their race to get “somewhere” as fast as
they possibly can. Meanwhile, pedestrians
trying to get to the lakefront must take their lives into their own hands as
they try to cross Sheridan. The crosswalk at Church and Sheridan is useless as there is no
signage or way to slow traffic down to let pedestrians cross.


The only time traffic stops for pedestrians, is when there
is a special event and the police are directing traffic. A simple and cost-effective solution, would
be to put a pedestrian activated crossing light at the intersection or midway
between Church and Clark. Such a signal
could be set up to allow traffic to flow freely when no pedestrians are
present, yet give pedestrians a fighting chance to cross safely when they
activate the light. A more expensive,
but reasonable, solution would be to make a pedestrian overpass or tunnel
connecting Lunt Park with the Lakefront.


However, the consultants have decided that re-routing Sheridan through the
existing residential neighborhood streets would be a better solution. The “proposed” solution, would actually add
at least two additional 90 degree bends in the road (more chances to squeal
those tires and see how fast you can make the turns). Worse yet, the “solution” would route traffic
West on Church Street
and then North on Judson to connect again with the current Sheridan Road. What happens to the current traffic on
Church? They propose that it would now
be forced to go South on Judson through the residential neighborhood and then
somehow re-connect with Sheridan
somewhere to the South (there would be a barrier in the middle of Church and
Judson so that traffic going East on Church could not turn North on the “new” Sheridan Road).


This plan would convert Church Street and Judson Avenue from residential traffic to
major arterial routes with traffic similar to that of Chicago Avenue or other major downtown
routes. The traffic would also create
unsafe conditions for existing residential neighborhoods and pedestrian traffic.


While the plan would create additional parking at Clark Street
Beach, it would eliminate
precious on-street parking on both Church and Judson. The 50 plus cars currently park daily on
Judson between Church and Clark would lose those
parking spaces and would most likely park on nearby neighborhood streets that
are already parked to capacity. The plan
would most likely remove on-street parking on Church from Hinman to Sheridan and Judson from Clark
to Davis (or possibly Grove).


Not a pretty picture.
It would be costly, disruptive and ultimately destroy much of what it is
intending to protect. Again, the focus
should be on figuring out a pedestrian-friendly way of crossing Sheridan Road
between Church and Clark, not increasing neighborhood traffic and decreasing
street parking.


The second part of the proposal that is ill-conceived is the
removal of Clark Street Beach
as a swimming beach. The consultants say
that Clark Street Beach
is under-utilized by swimmers. There is
a good reason for this anomaly, unlike other city beaches there is no dedicated
parking. The plan addresses this by
adding parking and yet takes swimming out of the picture. An additional possible reason for Clark Street
Beach being under-utilized for
swimming is that pedestrians going to the beach need to take their life into
their hands when trying to cross Sheridan. Sound familiar?


I would urge citizens to attend any of the upcoming
Lakefront Planning meetings being held in late October and early November to
voice their concern about these and other issues.