St. John Ave gets PIAC funds

Abby Hoover
Managing Editor

Traffic calming measures will soon be implemented on St. John Avenue after a funding application by the Indian Mound Neighborhood Association (IMNA) was approved last month.

The $500,000 Public Improvements Advisory Committee (PIAC) project will add traffic calming improvements along St. John Avenue from Belmont Blvd. to Elmwood Ave., encompassing residential properties, businesses, Budd Park and Holy Cross Catholic Church and School.

The Indian Mound Neighborhood Association applied for PIAC funding for this project in 2019 as a focus on traffic calming in relation to two incidents that occured, either reckless driving or speeding, that caused an ill effect on the community.

“It was kind of in the same vein as the speed tables that were put in place around Indian Mound Park, and the thought was to add speed tables toward St. John, at least around Budd Park and across from Holy Cross School,” IMNA Board President Manny Abarca said.

The project will be completed in two parts, beginning with a study to evaluate traffic, existing conditions, traffic calming options and estimated costs. The traffic study has already begun and will collect data through November.

The second portion of the project includes final design services and construction based on desired improvements from the results of the study and available funding.

In 2019, support from Fourth District City Council Members Eric Bunch and Katheryn Shields, and their district’s PIAC representatives, helped build upon the proposal. They saw an opportunity to expand the discussion, focusing beyond just traffic calming, pivoting the application into a broader development opportunity for the corridor.

“They wanted to make a significant investment within Indian Mound, specifically that corridor that runs through kind of the heart of the northern side of the Northeast, and hopefully that will pivot into more opportunities for development for that corridor,” Abarca said.

The neighborhood association has heard that those ideas for future development include an effort to create a St. John Corridor Community Improvement District (CID), which would help further establish the businesses on St. John Avenue.

“It is a very exciting opportunity that we are trying to rapidly use to garner more resources,” Abarca said. “We’re excited to see that things just got started.”

Council members and PIAC representatives thought it was a great opportunity to “spruce up” St. John Avenue and really talk about innovative ways to mix multi-modal transportation models, as well as beautification efforts, through this planning. Solutions that will be evaluated include traffic circles, bump outs and medians, striping modifications, speed limit changes, optical narrowing, and speed feedback signs.

In December, the city’s Capital Projects Division will host the first public meeting about the project virtually, as well as conducting stakeholder outreach.

Depending on additional funding, the project could be completed in late 2021 or early 2022, according to Maggie Green, Public Information Officer with the city’s Public Works department.

“This is really an opportunity for us in the Indian Mound neighborhood, but also within the Northeast, to dream about what the St. John Corridor could look like,” Abarca said.

Those working on the project anticipate drafting a set of recommendations and creating visuals in January 2021 before holding a second virtual public meeting in February. They have scheduled the final recommendations and report to come out in March.

“The goal of the study is to work with neighbors, business owners, and other stakeholders to determine the concerns and identify traffic calming solutions,” Green said. “So it’s too early to say what exactly the traffic calming will look like because the public engagement process through the study will help determine that.”

IMNA, Holy Cross School and other community organizations continue to work toward fully utilizing Budd Park, and with St. John Avenue dividing it from the site of a future community center at Denver Avenue, a safe crossing area will be more important than ever.

The neighborhood association is also continually working to eliminate vacant properties along the corridor through Urban Homesteading opportunities. They have also looked at Van Brunt Boulevard and Gladstone Boulevard for similar traffic calming projects.

“There are still opportunities to address some of the other corridors, so hopefully we can use this as a shining star example as to ways that we can focus on the rest of the corridors and other challenges throughout our neighborhood where infrastructure can be part of the solution,” Abarca said.

IMNA has utilized PIAC financing for Budd Park in three different years, and will continue applying for funds annually for other areas that need improvements, including involving bordering neighborhoods.

Since 1983, the PIAC has consisted of 13 people, two from each council district and a chairperson, appointed by the mayor and City Council.

The primary function of the PIAC is to solicit resident input and make recommendations regarding both the citywide and neighborhood portions of the capital budget. The PIAC holds a series of public hearings every year beginning in early summer. These hearings provide residents with an opportunity to express their opinions, concerns and project requests regarding the forthcoming capital budget.

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