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The continuing effort to bring some relief to residents along Oakton Street between McCormick Boulevard and Asbury Avenue returned to City Council on Dec. 12, in the form of a proposal to change the speed limit to 20 miles per hour. Poor road conditions, large trucks and speed, say neighbors, have led to rattling dishes, cracked plaster, and possible foundation problems for Oakton Street homes. Council members seemed inclined to view the issue as an engineering rather than a police problem, however.
Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, suggested the lowered speed limit. Earlier, she fought to limit trucks along the stretch with the new City-wide 8,000 lb. truck limit. Limiting trucks, though, has not been enough. “I brought this up a lot because of frustration,” she said, adding that the Public Works department has done “some things… but not enough” to correct the problem.
Suzette Robinson, director of Public Works, said a study showed there are about 26 trucks per day at Oakton Street and Dodge Avenue, eight of them semis. The rest, she said, were “box trucks,” such as a UPS or FedEx truck. The new limits had cut truck traffic roughly in half, she said.
Cheryl Muno spoke on behalf of the neighbors. “The street is in deplorable condition,” she said. With three schools and James Park, children walk along and cross Oakton Street at all times of the day and every day of the week, she said. Statistics show that kids have a 95 percent chance of surviving being hit by a vehicle traveling 20 miles per hour, but that number drops to 15 percent if a car is going 40 miles per hour. She presented a petition signed by 50 neighbors supporting the reduced speed limit.
Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, said the goal was to “change driver behavior,” and that traffic engineers were better suited to the task than enforcement. “Before we reduce the speed limit, I want data” supporting the change, she said. Bum- outs along the road, traffic circles are examples of engineering solutions.
Evanston Chief of Police Richard Eddington agreed, saying that in his experience as a police officer, “85 percent of drivers go the correct speed for a roadway.” The correct speed is not posted on signs, he said, but is based upon road conditions, width, and other measures. “You are going to go 31-32” m.p.h. along Oakton, regardless of the posted speed limit, because that is the correct speed for that stretch of road, he said.
If the City changed the speed limit and started writing tickets, “the conviction rate will not be good in [the] Skokie [court house]. This will be perceived as a revenue generator,” he said. “Even if we change the signs” it won’t slow people down. “I am advocating for an engineering solution,” said the Chief. He called a change in the posted speed limit “a rather expensive solution to an engineering problem.”
Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, asked when Oakton Street would be repaved, since that might be the crux of the problem. Ms. Robinson did not give a specific year but said that repaving Oakton Street is “in the five-year plan.”
Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said that School District 65 should assist in paying to repave Oakton Street, so that the repaving could be done sooner. And she had just the source of funds: a payment of TIF funds surplus to the school districts from the Howard-Hartrey TIF.
The Committee voted to hold the matter pending a discussion with the School District and the receipt of traffic data.