This T-shirt suggests that drinking beer instead of driving saves money.Photo from Bernie DiMeo

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… that Sheridan Road Traffic Signal Modernization Project is entering the phase III construction phase. Readers will remember that more than three years ago the City took over the jurisdiction of Sheridan Road between South Boulevard and Isabella. This project will upgrade the traffic signals from Chicago to Central.

… that the City plans to purchase a combination backhoe loader and two heavy-duty work trucks for the Utilities Department.

… that there may be a change in the cost-sharing aspect of alley-paving projects. The City proposes that at least 51 percent of the owners of property that abuts any unimproved alley petition the City for the “construction” of an alley. If the property owners wish to have an impermeable alley, the City will share equally with the property owners the cost of the alley. If the residents wish to have a “green” or permeable alley, the City will pick up only 40 percent of the tab. Their reasoning is thus: “The cost to construct a permeable alley is approximately 20 percent higher; therefore the City’s reduced share of 40 percent will allow the City to offer the ‘green’ alternative on a cost-neutral basis to the City when compared with the existing 50-50 alley program.” That is, the same relative amount of taxpayer money will be spent on alley paving, regardless of whether the alley is permeable or not, the City says. Or it could sound like the City is incentivizing the non-sustainable practice.

… that the City will repair a leaky section of the roof at fire/police headquarters.

… that there were a couple of street closings last week. A fire at Dempster at Elmwood caused a temporary closing there on Feb. 20. A few days later, on Feb. 24, Central Street between Sheridan Road and Orrington Avenue was closed for a few hours while a crane hoisted and installed a generator.

… that Big Brother has arrived. The Evanston Police Department received a yearlong free use of an automated license-plate reader (LPR) when it won the National Traffic Safety Challenge a few months ago. The LPR, provided by ELSAG North America, was installed last week on one of the EPD’s Chevy Tahoe patrol vehicles, and it can dig up a lot of information. Here’s how it works, according to information provided by the City: As the Tahoe goes along a street, two automated cameras monitor the vehicles parked on both sides of the street. The cameras will read the license plates and store a digital picture of the license plate itself and a second widerangle shot, for up to 30 days.

The information on the local LPR system is downloaded using a state police system that recognizes license plates and their registered owner’s information and can send an alert about vehicles that are stolen, wanted on warrants or for missing persons, or whose owners are wanted for suspended registrations or a suspended driver’s license.  And if the EPD is looking for a specific vehicle, an officer can enter that vehicle’s registration into the LPR system. So when an alert – whether from the state or local police for warrants, missing persons, car thefts or something else – is generated, the officer driving the Tahoe with the LPR can stop the driver if the car is nearby, or, if not, the officer can review the information from the LPR system to locate the vehicle. The system retains plate scans for 30 days, allowing police to review the system if necessary to locate a vehicle that may have been checked previously and later determined to be wanted for a crime.

And the EPD says the LPR is working. A stolen car was recovered within the first two hours of operation. The department says that although the LPR can locate vehicles with unpaid parking fines, “the Evanston Police Department does not program the LPR for this type of use. The LPR is currently only being used to locate vehicles that are linked to violations of criminal laws or to drivers who may be in violation of the law by operating a motor vehicle. The LPR is being operated strictly for the safety of the Evanston community.” Among the public safety challenges an LRP system can address are “some public safety concerns related to concerns on terrorism in the United States, in addition to identifying vehicles wanted for major types of crimes and locating missing persons.” Guess a license plate is now like a vehicle’s DNA.

… that the development of 1700 Central St., the Central Street theaters site, continues. The City will allow two-way traffic on Eastwood from Central to the first alley to the south. Parking will be prohibited on the west side of Eastwood in that same area – Central to the first alley. Along the alley itself, the developer has “extended the utility easement on the property by 3.5 feet to 5.5 feet, facilitating separation and easier access to garages by all who share garage access in the alley,” according to City documents.

… that, speaking of parking, downtown residents who live in Residential Parking District A will soon be exempt from the two-hour parking limitation on the east side of Benson between University and Emerson.

… that, as if it’s not enough for coyotes to be staging a comeback in Evanston, the supposedly extinct Dyrewolf has made it here, if only through a fanciful license plate. Perhaps the owner is a fan of “Game of Thrones”, the epic fantasy book series by George R. R. Martin now grabbing new audiences in a hot HBO television series.

… that, speaking of development in that area, NU president Morton Schapiro has expressed surprise (consternation) that he and NU were omitted from the hoopla surrounding the announcement of a Trader Joe’s on Chicago Avenue. The Daily Northwestern reports that Mr. Schapiro was “‘surprised’ when City officials did not mention the University’s role in brokering the deal to bring Trader Joe’s to Evanston during the highly publicized rollout last week. … [Mr.] Schapiro told The Daily the University owned the alley directly north of the proposed Trader Joe’s site. He said the deal to bring the store to Evanston ‘wouldn’t have happened’ if the University hadn’t been willing to sell or swap that particular parcel of land. ‘In everybody’s enjoyment or happiness, no one mentioned that we brokered the thing.

…It’s amazing that somehow that was forgotten, so I’m surprised no one ever mentioned us. All I wanted for that one was a “thank you”’ for the help behind the scenes by Northwestern.’” If Morty is miffed, is the City mortified?

… that Rocco Shirts is offering this 3-D T-shirt (Drink, Don’t Drive) in light of fears of $5-per-gallon gas. Rocco Shirts owner Bernie DiMeo says a portion of all proceeds will go to buying gas for him.

… that Hugh Neff won the Iditarod (now called Yukon Quest) this year. Mr. Neff grew up in Evanston and named his Alaskan husky Walter in honor of Walter Payton. He won by 26 seconds.

… that here is another former Evanstonian on the move, but in a different sense. Melissa Thodos of Thodos Dance Chicago collaborated with Ann Reinkin on a dance called “The White City,” which was voted the best dance in Chicago of 2011.

The Traffic Guy thinks …

… that spring is coming.