On Jan. 23, City Council took up two roadway matters introduced at prior meetings. A proposal seeking to lower the speed limit on the stretch of Oakton Street between Ridge and Dodge avenue from 30 to 20 miles per hour failed narrowly. An ordinance adding a $100 fee for “no parking” signs reserving space for moving vans, however, passed easily.
The Oakton Street speed limit measure was the latest effort by Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, to provide some relief to beleaguered and vocal, residents of that stretch of road. At citizen comment over the past several months the Administration and Public Works Committee has heard of rumbling trucks, bouncing living rooms, cracked plaster, rude drivers and difficulty getting out of driveways.
“What I’m asking for is to help find relief,” said Ald. Burrus, adding that the change in speed limit would cost the City next to nothing. Prior efforts, including changing the truck routes to redirect large trucks onto other corridors, a bump-out and pedestrian crossing added, and flashing “you are speeding” signs have helped, but not enough, she said.
Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, and Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, both expressed sympathy for Oakton’s residents while mentioning that roadways in their ward would suffer from the change. In the Fourth Ward, Main Street has already felt the effects of the change in truck traffic occasioned by the truck route adjustments. “People aren’t stupid,” Ald. Wilson said, “They are going to figure out that Oakton is the 20 miles-per-hour road and they will move elsewhere… [We will be] fixing one stretch at the expense of other residents. …”
Ald. Holmes called Oakton an “entryway into the City,” like Emerson and Church Streets in the Fifth Ward. Changing Oakton’s speed limit would be “asking for problems in the rest of the City,” she said. Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, said she agreed with Alds. Wilson and Holmes, mentioning her First Ward’s Sheridan Road. She said she had no problem with Citywide speed limit changes, but opposed changing individual streets.
Alderman Jane Grover, who has noted that the Seventh Ward’s Central Street presents similar issues, said that “all of this gets to problems with driver behavior.” She proposed a friendly amendment that would drop the Oakton limit from 30 to 25.
“That’s still going to result in the same problem,” pushing traffic from Oakton to Main, Church and Emerson, said Ald. Wilson.
“But the other streets don’t have three schools” and parks filled with children, said Ald. Burrus. “Oakton is a bit different. … It is a bit unique.”
She picked up support but not enough. Council voted 5-4 to reject the proposed change.
The $100 fee for no-parking signs fared better. Introduced without debate at the previous meeting, the new fee, which will require people looking to reserve space to pay for “no-parking” signs for the first time, came out of the budget process.
Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, asked about the origin of the fee and how it would be enforced. Suzette Robinson, the City’s Director of Public Works, called the program a “request program,” saying “this allows the right of way to be reserved.” She said the $100 does not cover the City’s cost to administer the program, which includes putting up signs 48 hours in advance of the move date then checking to make sure no one has pulled down the signs.
Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, said that “folks in denser neighborhoods” such as the Third Ward “will always have to pay this fee,” while other neighborhoods with greater parking availability might get away without reserving space.
Ald. Burrus reminded council that the budget process included $50,000 from this program, and if Council cut the fee, that money would have to be replaced. The $50,000 is based on the more than 500 no-parking permits that people obtained when the permits were free. As with yard waste stickers the previous year, City staff estimates that roughly the same number of parking permits will be purchased this year despite the addition of a fee.
Chief of Police Richard Eddington said that when moving vans do not get permits and instead double park, the department only responds if they receive a complaint. “This is not on the top of our ‘to do’ list,” he said. Police first attempt to negotiate a resolution “before we get out the ticket book… we can write a ticket for obstructing the roadway [but] writing a ticket usually doesn’t fix anything.” The truck is still obstructing traffic and has to be unloaded. The cost of a ticket, if issued, was not mentioned.
Citizens can pay $100 for reserved parking that was free last year, or “risk it” and try to find parking for free, said the City’s Ms. Robinson. If they double park and unload a moving van, the police will ask them to move first and only write a ticket as a last resort, said Chief Eddington. The City is counting on $50,000 in revenue from these permits, said. Ald. Burrus.