Retired art educator Reuven Robinson worked for three weeks on this colorful chair in the Central Street Post Office.Photo by Natalie Wainwright

… that earlier this week, Wisc, Janney, Elstner, Associates, Inc., structural engineering consultants, began their inspection of the façade panels on the 12-story Sherman Plaza parking garage in downtown Evanston. The company was hired by the City to find out how bad a shape the garage is in. The RoundTable reported last issue that pieces of the precast concrete façade panels have been chipping off “leading to serious concern by the City about the structural integrity of the entire exterior.” Wisc, Jenney, Elstner will perform a “close-up inspection and hammer-sounding” of the entire façade. Weather permitting, the inspection will take about two weeks. Even though the scaffolding is up, sidewalks will remain open, according to the City.

… that for the next two weeks or so, travel on Ridge between Church and Clark will be reduced to one lane in each direction. Focus Construction is doing major water and sewer work for the eight-story building that will complete the Sienna development there.

… that work resumes today on the CTA’s viaduct-replacement project. Readers will recall that the CTA plans to replace the century-old viaducts at Grove, Dempster and Greenleaf. The retaining wall along Chicago Avenue between Madison and South was fixed or replaced as needed last fall. CTA folks also say that last fall their crews completed “95 percent of the preparatory and foundation work at each of the three sites, allowing them to complete work on the viaducts at a slightly more accelerated pace than originally planned.” So, starting with Dempster, crews will be setting up the work site and begin to construct the new “bridges” right next to the existing ones. These new bridges/viaducts will be made of steel and will be, the CTA promises, “more visually appealing, changing the flow of customers to businesses on both sides of the viaducts, creating greater opportunities for economic development.” Other benefits, according to the CTA, will be the smaller footprints of these bridges, “allowing for better sight lines for pedestrians and drivers, increasing safety for both.” And, oh yes, the trains will be able to run faster and more efficiently.

… that some capital improvement projects slated for this year have been deferred: Work on the Davis Street Street-scape Project on Davis between Hinman and Orrington is now slated for next year, to coincide with street resurfacing there.

Here’s what will be constructed this year instead: a protected bike path on Church between Chicago and Sheridan and the streetscape on the south side of Central from Lincolnwood to Ewing. The streetscape on Orrington from Davis to Church will be improved with some new lighting.

Similarly, planned water main replacement and street resurfacing on Main from Maple to Hinman will be deferred to 2013, because that plan did not include streetscape. The City also said they’d like a little more time to confer with Union Pacific “to improve the turning radius at Custer and Main” (something addressed in this column not long ago). So street resurfacing this summer is slated for Oak from Dempster to the dead end, and on Elmwood from Oakton to South (that one will also include street resurfacing). Here are the other slated capital improvements for street segments: Ashland, Lincoln to Central; Church, Dodge to Ashland and Ridge to Chicago; Greenleaf, Grey to Dodge; and sidewalks at Church and Dodge and from Ridge to Chicago, and at the Dodge/Lake intersection.

… that the Evanston Police Department will be watching for drunk drivers (Irish and otherwise) who over-celebrate and then try to drive. Be sensible.

… that this beautiful chair in the Central Street post office was painted by Reuven Robinson. He came in every day for three weeks to paint the chair as a labor of love. He says, “I had walked into the P.O. for years and had always said, this poor old chair needs a new life. So I got creative and had a lot of fun. I am not sure what was more fun – painting the chair or ‘kibitzing’ with the customers as they walked in.” This act gives a kinder, gentler meaning to “going postal.”

… that folks who thought this was a pretty mild winter are right. State climatologist Jim Angel reports that the average temperature this winter statewide was 34.2 degrees. That is 5.2 degrees above normal and the third-warmest winter on record. Dr. Angel, of the Illinois State Water Survey, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, also reports that the “warmest winter on record was 1931-32 at 37.1 degrees. This was followed by a two-way tie for second place with 1997-98 and 2001-02 at 34.5 degrees. This winter was a close third at 34.2 degrees.”

In February, the statewide average temperature was 35.1 degrees, 4.6 degrees above average, making it the 15th warmest February on record. Another memorable aspect of this past winter is the small number of below-zero days. Statewide, the average precipitation was 6.73 inches. Snowfall totals, Dr. Angel says, were “50 to 75 percent of normal across much of northern Illinois and 25 to 50 percent of normal in central and southern Illinois.”

… that Northwestern University reports that some of its high-energy physics students “played a significant role in the world’s most precise measurement of the mass of the W boson, a result announced March 2 by the Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. The W boson is one of nature’s elementary particles.” According to NU, knowing the mass of the W boson “will help in the hunt for the hypothetical Higgs boson,” often called the “god particle.” The NU report called it “one of the mysteries of the universe.” It’s what scientists are hoping to find with the large Hadron collider at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland.

The Traffic Guy thinks …

… that some aldermen are going wild over the latest proposal about driving and cell phones. Seems now “hands-free” is not enough: Talking on cellphones, no matter where a driver’s hands are, can prove dangerous. But the proposed enforcement surely has the police shaking their heads: Seems the City wants a motorcycle cop to sneak up on suspected hands-free-cell-phone users to try to figure out what’s coming out of their mouths – singing, for example, or a monologue, a reaction to a talk-show host (impossible!) or a cellphone conversation. At least one safety expert has said none of us is good at multi-tasking. TG does not advocate distracted driving, but sees this from another perspective. Distractible drivers, or those who do not put safety first, will find something to take their minds off the road. If it’s not cellphones, it will be the radio or an iPod or a passenger or a dog. (If the City really plans to take the big distraction away from most drivers, it should outlaw unruly children.)

And of course, the planned form of enforcement only works if the driver’s side window is down. Seems if the City is going to use motorcycle cops for that, they should also use them to enforce the noise ordinance and to catch those cars with the boom boxes that shake the road and other cars – or the anti-idling ordinance.

… that if NU president Morton Schapiro is still annoyed at being overlooked in all the kudos over Trader Joe’s, maybe the City could honor him the way they did Third Ward Alderman Melissa Wynne: Name a day after him.

… that it’s time for everyone to get out into their yards, parkways, sidewalks and streets and clear away winter’s debris. Spring comes next Tuesday.

… that it’s great that ETHS is now serving breakfast, and especially appropriate that one place the students can get their first meal of the day is the Bacon Wildkit Window.

    Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone.