Watch CBS News

Proposed Switch To One-Way Street On Chicago's Near Northwest Side Is 'Going To Affect Businesses', According To Business Owner

CHICAGO (CBS) -- There is a controversy over a mile-long stretch of road in West Town.

A stretch of Wood Street is being turned into a one-way street, and Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st) said residents voted for the project.

But the people CBS 2 has been hearing from said they did not.

As CBS 2's Tara Molina reported Monday night, a mile-long stretch of Wood Street is affected, between Ellen Street in Wicker Park and Grand Avenue near the Kinzie Industrial Corridor, the project will turn that stretch of Wood Street into a one-way street with a protected two-way bike lane.

Not everyone is on board - and to make that point, they have put up flyers reading, "Keep Wood a two-way street." The people who put up the flyers also say not everyone even knows it's happening.

A $325,000 chunk of 1st Ward money and the votes of 67 residents gave the green light to turn the stretch of Wood Street in question from a two-way street into a one-way northbound street.

Every alderman in every ward in the city gets $1.5 million every year, specifically for ward infrastructure improvements such as sidewalk repairs. Ald. La Spata chose to put some of that money up for a vote, and this project is an example - those 67 people voted to make this happen, and it will.

Business owners don't have a vote - only 1st Ward residents.

"The number of votes is disproportionate to the amount of people that would be affected," said Ben Clauss.

Clauss is a partner in a business located in a building at the south end of the street. He couldn't vote on the project.

Clauss said it will negatively impact them and others.

"I feel that the current proposal as written is detrimental to the businesses served by the south end of Wood Street and into the Kinzie Industrial Area," he said. "By eliminating the vehicular southbound traffic on Wood, this would make it more difficult to access not only our business but others."

A look at the comments on the project online show Clauss is not alone.

"I feel when you're spending this amount of money on one single project, a majority of the community needs to be involved," one comment read.

The comments indicated a number of residents don't even know about the planned change.

That's why those flyers are up now all over Wood Street. Clauss said he's reached the alderman's office with concerns, but never talked to the alderman directly.

Clauss also suggested that the project may be better suited to Wolcott Avenue - a city block to the west.

"I proposed moving the bike lane to Wolcott, which is already a wider one street and would take less cost to implement the infrastructure," he said. "The street would also remain just a quiet as it is today with the only change being the addition of a light at Grand and Wolcott. This would be welcomed to calm the traffic on Grand."

Ald. La Spata said his office has heard from both sides since announcing the plan, and input from residents will be critical moving forward, but this is happening.

"We want to take what our constituents have said they wanted to see funded and make the best version of this that works for everyone, but it is a project that's moving forward," La Spata said.

He said a focus on bike lanes is something residents clearly want.

"Residents have consistently said they wanted cycling to be a safer more effective and comfortable mode of transportation," La Spata said.

La Spata further said he cannot unilaterally veto projects for which his constituents voted.

"There's a variety of interests you want to balance. What I would never want to do is to repeal a decision that was made by my constituents," he said. "I feel like it's the worst trend in democracy right now where we are invalidating elections or saying - you may have voted, but that's not what we're doing. That is not the kind of demographic process I want in the first ward."

As for proposals like Clauss' to look at a street like Wolcott Avenue, the alderman said the focus is on the project his constituents presented and voted for over the course of the past year.

"It would be really shameful of me to overturn all of their hard work simply because of flyers one person is putting up," Clauss said.

Meanwhile, the Active Transportation Alliance endorsed the plan for more protected bike lanes - as the Wood Street project will create:

"It's great to see residents propose and support making streets safer for people biking in Wicker Park. Protected bike lanes make streets safer for all users by preventing crashes and slowing down cars and trucks to safe speeds. Wood is identified as a neighborhood bike route in the city's Streets for Cycling Plan and serves as an important connector within the neighborhood. These side streets can be ideal for bicycling if changes are made to slow down cut through traffic, as residents are proposing here."

Ride Illinois echoed that statement:

"Our organization was not involved in this particular project. Ride Illinois is supportive of protected bike lanes and improvements in bike infrastructure. Based on some quick research, Wood St is a logical choice for a 2-way protected bike lane given the connection to Augusta Blvd (a popular E-W route for bicyclists) and the fact that it is not a major thoroughfare, such as Ashland or Damen. We realize that the change may have implications for residents and businesses. We encourage interested parties to communicate early in the process to seek the most suitable solution and to determine ways they can benefit from the improvement that supports non-motorized transportation."

CBS 2 checked in with the Chicago Department of Transportation on this the agency is involved in next steps. A spokesman said, "Once he submits the project to us, we will review it for feasibility and discuss any findings with the Alderman."

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.