City moving on Elston improvements

The city is planning to re-route Elston Avenue in an effort to untangle the knotty six-way intersection with Damen and Fullerton avenues.

Prelimary plans obtained from the city Transportation Department show officials will move Elston so that it heads due east and crosses Damen north of where it currently intersects with the street. Elston would continue east for roughly one block and then curve back south, crossing Fullerton.

Proposed Elston re-route. Not to scale.
City Council's housing committee yesterday approved purchase of a five-acre parcel of land that will facilitate the reconfiguration of the intersection, as well as allow for the expansion of the Vienna Beef plant at 2501 N. Damen.

The plan will bring relief to some 70,000 motorists who travel through the intersection each day, making it one of the city's most congested.

Though the committee approved acquiring the land, City Transportation spokesman Brian Steele emphasized that all plans are in the preliminary stage.

"We have some concepts drawn up and they're not finalized by any means," said Steele.

The Elston reconfiguration, said Steele, will yield a more "traditional" configuration of three separate intersections: Damen and Fullerton; Elston and Damen; and Elston and Fullerton.

Acquisition of the parcel on Fullerton will allow Elston to cut into the southwest corner of a vacant lot currently owned by Vienna Beef. The purchase will also allow the beef plant to expand to the east, possibly for construction of a pickle factory.

"The property acquisition will essentially do two things," said Department of Planning and Development spokesman Pete Scales. "It will allow us to relieve congestion by reconfiguring the intersection and it will provide adequate development space so that a strong manufacturing concern can expand its facilities."

The Fullerton property houses a Whirley Ball and several commercial and retail spaces. Scales said that the city is negotiating with the property owner.

Alderman Scott Waguespack [D-32], said that community participation has been integral to the preliminary planning process.

"Pretty much from the first month that I came into office I've tried to sit down with business owners and make sure that everyone affected would be involved," said Waguespack. "I've been working with the North Elston Business Association and we've convened a couple meetings to talk with business owners."

Steele said there will probably be a community meeting later this year to discuss the project.

He estimated that construction would not begin for a couple years at the earliest.

The city has earmarked $7 million in federal funds for the planning, engineering and design for the project and will seek additional funds from federal, state and local sources,  Steele said.

Over the years, the city has floated various ideas for relieving congestion at this intersection, including  a Fullerton Avenue tunnel.

But that approach didn't meet anticipated traffic growth  as well as the bypass option, said  Steele.

Discuss

JERROD, 01-05-2008

Its about time, waiting at that intersection to try to get through a light takes forever.

GEOFF DOUGHERTY (THE EDITOR), 01-06-2008

If there's a worse intersection in the city, I can't imagine where it might be.