Damen-Fullerton intersection to get makeover

April 10, 2013 2:43:16 PM PDT
The reconstruction of a major Chicago intersection will displace some businesses in the area, the mayor's office said Wednesday.

The City of Chicago will reconfigure the congested and accident-plagued six-way intersection of Damen, Elston, and Fullerton avenues.

The project is expected to create 100 construction jobs.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel submitted a proposal to the Chicago City Council to acquire nine parcels of land under eminent domain to complete the project.

The properties are located between 1875-2002 W. Fullerton Ave., 2357-2501 N. Damen and 2301-2447 N. Elston Ave., and fall within or adjacent to the North Branch Tax Increment Financing District. TIF funds would be used to acquire the properties and complete design work for the reconfiguration, the mayor's office said.

"Companies that would be impacted by the intersection improvements are already working with the City on their individual relocation needs and the City is committed to ensuring that all companies in the area are able to continue to conduct business as these essential improvements take place," a mayor's office news release said.

WhirlyBall, 1880 W. Fullerton, has leased space in a building that would be demolished in the proposal.

"Once we get through all the relocation brain damage, if you will, I think we're all gonna be better off," said WhirlyBall owner Sam Elias.

Other small business owners who were not as happy about the imminent domain situation did not want to talk on camera.

Plans for the intersection include: making right-of-way improvements to ease traffic congestion and improve the synchronization of traffic signalization.

Currently, more than 70,000 vehicles pass through the intersection daily, and traffic traveling through the intersection sometimes encounters delays of nearly seven minutes to just make a turn, or get through the intersection.

Since 2002, the Chicago Department of Transportation has been reviewing the intersection, the mayor's office said. After pursuing the design of a Fullerton underpass for several years, CDOT decided a reconfiguration of the at-grade intersections, including a realignment of Elston to the north and west of the current intersection, would be best.

IDOT and the Federal Highway Administration approved the proposed alignment plan in September of 2012, finalizing the footprint of private property required to complete this project. Construction of the improvement is estimated to begin in fall of 2014.

The Bucktown intersection would no longer be six ways, as Elston would make a bypass curving around to the outside.

Members of the Midtown Athletic Club, which sits on the dangerous, congested cluster, are thrilled with the proposed changes of an intersection that the city says consistently ranks in the top five for the most traffic accidents every year.

But the club, along with other area businesses, will be affected. At Midtown Athletic Club, they'll completely lose their smaller building across the street, but they have plans to make additions to their larger, main facility.

The City Council could give final approval to the proposal next month.