…that the City has received a $792,000 Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) grant for traffic signal modernization along Dempster Street. This is really big news, because it could mean that the traffic lights between McCormick and Ridge might actually be coordinated to let traffic flow rather than stop at each light (Fowler, Hartrey, Evanston Plaza, Dodge, Asbury and Ridge). Folks will remember that TG did a “taste test” of those lights a couple of winters ago and found that drivers had to stop at each light whether they were drinking coffee, tea or hot chocolate.

The grant comes from the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP), which has $411 million in federal transportation programs to dole out as part of its GO TO 2040 comprehensive regional plan for reducing congestion and improving air quality in the metropolitan area.  Here’s what CMAP said about our little segment of Dempster: “The Dempster Street corridor … is severely congested and is used by buses, trucks, pedestrians, and bicyclists. The closely spaced intersections cause queuing problems during the morning and evening peak periods.” The lights on the signals will be LED, and there will be “pedestrian countdowns” to let folks know how much time is left to cross a street.

… that there’s also good news for the Church Street corridor. The City will apply for a grant to put a safe bike route, with protected lanes, along Church Street between ETHS and Niles North High School (Lawler Avenue) that would eventually stretch between the Lake and Harms Woods. If the City receives the grant, it
will have to kick in about $4 million for the project.

… that the City has been tracking reports of missed refuse and recycling pickups and has narrowed the causes down to two: Residents’ setting their garbage or recycling carts out too late or equipment breaking down. Both of these seem eminently resolvable.

… that the City’s graffiti-removal wizard has been really busy this year, removing or covering over more than 5,000 incidents this year. Alderman Ann Rainey wants a bounty on graffiti-ers (graffitists?)and taggers. She said she once offered a $100 reward for turning in a graffiti-writer and it was just days before the culprit was turned in. For the City, though, she was thinking smaller – a $25 reward.

… that work on the Grove Street viaduct is really coming along.

… that repairs to the CTA retaining wall from Madison to South along
Chicago Avenue will continue another two weeks, until Nov. 11. Watch for single-lane (each way) traffic along Chicago (between Madison and South); the outer or southbound lane of Chicago between Madison and South will be closed for the duration. Questions may be addressed to Pelayo Enerio “Jhun,” City of Evanston permits engineer at 311 or 847-448-8311.

… that the Cherry Family Foundation has donated another T3 vehicle to the police department. An officer on the present T3 (no, it’s not a Segway, but it looks something like one) can often be seen along Dodge Avenue. Police Chief Richard Eddington noted that a T3 is also a green vehicle, because when an officer is on the T3 he or she is a “not in a Crown Vic.”

 … that next year the City may purchase a Big Brother (not really the name) license plate recognition system. This will allow a parking enforcement officer (PEO) to find scofflaws more easily, said parking czar Rickey Voss. Somehow the LPRS can also get our vehicle sticker info and figure out, for instance, if we’ve parked too long in a two-hour zone. The software takes note of the position of the tire stem, among other things, and can locate a car in need of booting in about an eighth of the time it now takes. The cost is $100,000, and the City can expect to earn that money back within a year. The fact that one PEO position will be vacant next year accounts for a lot of the savings, though.

… that the City of Evanston is establishing contracts for emergency snow towing for this winter season. There are always a few who get surprised by overnight storms. Should we revisit snow-removal stickers?

… that 18 corporate-sponsored bus shelters will soon appear around the City. COA, the City’s partner, has already constructed one near Emerson and Dewey, and the other 17 are to come. COA will seek the ads and give the City a portion of the revenue.

… that Chase Bank is seeking to construct a branch bank with a multi-lane drive-through at Gross Point and Crawford, at the site of the now-closed Citgo station. The proposal includes the two parcels of land to the west of the former gas station and a restructuring of the City-owned alley near there. Here’s the wrinkle: the proposed bank building conforms as a permitted use of the City’s B1a zoning but only on one parcel; the other two parcels included in the proposed projects are zoned R2, residential, and will require rezoning to B1a zoning to accommodate the bank’s plan. This, predictably, is not sitting well with some residents of the nearby Hillside area. The Sixth Ward alderman is encouraging residents to attend and comment at tonight’s meeting of the Zoning Committee of the Plan Commission and the Nov. 9 Plan Commission meeting. Stay tuned as residents chase what matters to them. If that goes through, that drive-through and the nearby Starbuck’s drive-through will make a little greenhouse-gas island in that northwest corner of the City.

… that one of the updates to the 311 call system is that now people who call and ask to speak to a specific person will actually get to do so without a lot of prescreening nonsense. A few weeks ago a resident spoke at City Council complaining that when she called to ask for a specific person she would be asked what it was she wanted and she would reply, “I want to talk to the person I called.” Now, to resurrect an old Lily Tomlin joke, she and the rest of us can reach the party to whom they are speaking.

The Traffic Guy Thinks …

… that, satisfying as it might be to rake or blow yard leaves into the street, doing that violates a City ordinance. It might be better if folks who want to have City collection of leaves in the streets were to call their aldermen and let the Council work it out.

… that it is gratifying to hear the Mayor say it’s a mistake for the City to assume ownership of City streets that are operated and maintained as state roads. The folks at this newspaper (TG included) have been saying that for years.

… that the Police Chief and the Fire Chief upcoming “lunch and mingle” is not upscale enough. Seems the chiefs will hold a “mingle” and lunch immediately afterward. Lunching with the chiefs is $50 per person, lunching and mingling will cost $75. Apparently this is a way for residents to contribute to the police and fire foundations. But potentially lucrative extras have been omitted: How about a silent auction, where folks could bid on, say, a year’s worth of exempt parking fines? A free false-alarm call? Why not a cash bar with a three-drink minimum, to allow officers strategically placed on the outside to snag drunk drivers? TG, somewhat jealous of this idea, is considering a similar fundraising get-together with some of the more notable other traffic signs and signals in the City.

         … Happy Halloween and feliz dia de los muertos.