Aldermen told Chicago’s transportation chief Friday that they want input on the planned rollout of speed cameras and bike lanes in their wards.
Ald. Pat Dowell, 3rd, told Department of Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein she doesn’t want any speed cameras installed in her ward, which includes parts of the South Loop, Bronzeville and Washington Park neighborhoods.
“I just want to make clear to you that my expectation is that, before you put a speed camera in the 3rd Ward, I did not support speed cameras,” Dowell said at the Transportation Department’s budget hearing. “I don’t want them in the ward. I would rather try to use some traffic-calming strategies first.”
Klein, who was Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s pick to run the department, told aldermen he doesn’t expect the introduction of speed cameras will be delayed because the city disqualified Redflex Traffic Systems as a bidder for the contract.
The administration took that action after a Tribune investigation found an employee at the company improperly paid for a hotel room for a city official who oversaw the city’s red-light camera ticket program, which Redflex administers.
The administration expects to award the contract by early next year and start installing the cameras in the spring, Klein said, despite technological issues with the cameras that came to light because of a state law requiring a child be visible in a photo for a ticket to be issued for a driver violating a school speed zone.
Several aldermen also called for better bike lanes along Milwaukee Avenue, which sees crowds of cyclists heading downtown each day from Logan Square, Wicker Park and other Northwest Side neighborhoods.
Ald. Matthew O’Shea, 19th, took a different stance, telling Klein “if you never put a bike lane in my ward, that’s too soon.”
O’Shea said he would rather see public money spent on repairing his Southwest Side ward’s crumbling infrastructure.
Aldermen also pushed Building Commissioner Michael Merchant to accelerate a program to secure or demolish vacant buildings to prevent them from becoming havens for crime.
Merchant said the city has knocked down a total of 614 vacant buildings citywide this year, including 171 under a program to have the Building Department work with police to secure or demolish empty structures that serve as gang hang-outs.
“We should not wait until we find a body in a building before we tear it down,” said Ald. Ariel Reboyras, 30th. “If we nip it in the bud, we can take care of these problems ahead of time.”