Options for Poplar Avenue north of Central Street: At left, vehicular traffic from Poplar would be rerouted to Broadway Avenue; at right, Poplar would end in a cul-de-sac. In either case, no changes are proposed for Poplar Avenue south of Central Street.                                                                               All renderings from City of Evanston

A ‘road diet,’ ADA compliance, streetscape and embankment improvements and a reworked traffic pattern for Poplar Avenue north of Central Street are among the proposed improvements for the Central Street/Green Bay Road intersection.

The options and designs were on display at an open house in the Parasol Room of the Civic Center on March 12. The scope of the project is Central Street between Hartrey Avenue and Eastwood Avenue and Green Bay Road between Isabella Street and Harrison Street. Central Street is “a key east/west arterial, and Green Bay Road a key north/south arterial connecting people to public transportation, work, home, school and entertainment,” according to the City, and the goal of the project is to improve safety, accessibility and traffic flow.

At the open house, City engineers and consultants offered two options for the difficult stretch of Central Street where both Broadway and Poplar avenues intersect Central Street within yards of each other. There were three options for reconfiguring lanes on Green Bay Road, and descriptions and designs for streetscape improvements and embankment plantings.

Poplar Options

The double intersection of Central Street with Poplar and Broadway avenues is often congested with through-traffic passenger vehicles, with cars stopping to pick up or drop off commuters at the Metra station there and with children themselves walking to and from St. Athanasius School or Haven Middle School.

Under either option, Poplar Avenue coming south from Jenks Street would not intersect Central Street; the bus shelter would be relocated, and pedestrian bump outs and barriers would be installed.

Under one option, Poplar Avenue would end in a cul-de-sac just north of Central Street. This option would eliminate six parking spaces. Under the second option, Poplar Avenue north of Central would be redesigned to connect with Broadway Avenue about 100 feet north of Central Street, creating an open space abutting Central Street. Although the City has not specified a use for the space, one option is to install bicycle racks, or perhaps a Divvy Bike station, there.

Pedestrian bumpouts on Central Street at Broadway Avenue would lessen the crossing distance. A painted center median would keep cars in two lanes and prevent jockeying for position as they approach the traffic light. Since there is no left-turn arrow, drivers often try to anticipate whether the left or the right lane will be the faster one to continue straight ahead.

Green Bay North of Central

Under one of the options for Green Bay Road north of Central Street – called the “transit optimized” option, there would be three lanes of traffic rather than four: one in each direction and a center lane for turning traffic. Carl Bova, an Evanston resident and a civil engineer by profession, said this reduction in lanes is called a “road diet.”

The space gained from the lane reduction would allow a wider sidewalk on the west side of Green Bay Road and a full bus turn-around on the east side. One possibility on that wider sidewalk is a “passenger shelf” for the safe boarding/unloading of northbound buses, according to the City.

The second option – called the “parking maximized” option – would use the additional space from the lane reduction to add parking on the west side of Green Bay Road between Isabella and Livingston streets. To allow for even a partial-width bus turnout, the sidewalk would be reduced by four feet – down to seven feet wide.

Option 3 would have two southbound lanes and one northbound lane, a full-width turnout and passenger shelf for northbound buses.

The Viaduct

Pigeons roost, stalactites form and traffic jams under the viaduct just east of Green Bay Road. A pier with supports for the viaduct divides and shortens the lanes. Mr. Bova said he believes that replacing the viaduct – and eliminating the pier – would do much to improve the traffic flow there. He said he plans to attend Evanston Lobby Day in Springfield to present his request to legislators.

Aesthetic and ADA Improvements

The City has hired Evanston-based Kettelkamp & Kettelkamp for landscape design. Drifts of plants and sturdier trees would adorn the Metra/Union Pacific embankment along Green Bay Road, making the landscape there “sustainable and maintainable, refined and memorable,” according to the Kettelkamp & Kettelkamp design.

Streetscape improvements between Hartrey and Eastwood avenues would include hanging baskets on the streetlight poles, decorative tree grates on a smaller scale than those downtown and planters that are taller and narrower than the vases overflowing with summer plants and vines in the downtown area. 

Improved safety and ADA access at the northwest corner of the Central Street/Green Bay Road intersection would be in the form of a pedestrian bump out and a sloped sidewalk, serving as a ramp, to meet the higher sidewalk there at Prairie Avenue. Mr. Bova suggested that, rather than keeping the current parallel sidewalks, the City could add an ADA ramp at the intersection that would allow those with strollers or in wheelchairs to access the higher sidewalk at the intersection, rather than proceeding on the lower one for a block.