… that City Council authorized the purchase of two recycle packer trucks, one in 2016 and another in 2017, to replace aging trucks in the City’s fleet. The cost of each truck is about $250,000.

… that Council authorized paying  $196,000 in fees associated with operating its 1,736 parking meters in 2016. The City pays a monthly fee of $7.25 per meter to Duncan Solutions, Inc., for back-office support and pays a 35-cent fee each time someone pays to park using the pay-by-cell phone option. (On a $2 parking fee, 17.5% goes toward the fee.) During a recent three-month period, the average number of pay-by-cell phone transactions per month was 10,937.

… that the project to revamp the intersection at Emerson Street/Ridge Avenue/Green Bay Road is closer to getting underway. City Council approved retaining ESI Consultants, Ltd., to perform Phase III engineering services for a not-to-exceed amount of $723,803. ESI has previously performed Phase I services (design engineering) and Phase II services (completing construction plans). Phase III will include engineering services during construction.  Council also approved spending $4.4 million as the City’s share of the total cost of the project, which is expected to be a little over $8.3 million. The project is scheduled to be bid in March 2016, and construction is expected to start in late April. Get ready for delays and finding new routes once this project starts.  

… that Evanston police participated in the national Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over drunk driving enforcement campaign between Dec. 18 and Jan. 3, showing zero tolerance for driving under the influence. During the campaign, the Evanston Police Department ramped up its enforcement efforts and made 2 DUI arrests and issued 38 seat-belt-related citations; 21 distracted driving/cell phone citations; 3 citations for having open containers of alcohol in the vehicle; 4 citations for driving with a suspended license; 14 speeding citations; 9 citations for lacking insurance; 1 underage consumption of alcohol; 1 warrant arrest; 1 felony cannabis arrest; 1 cannabis C-ticket; and 12 other traffic related citations. “We worked really hard and stepped up to the challenge,” said Sergeant Tracy Williams, Traffic Unit supervisor. “To us, if we saved one life, the campaign was worthwhile.” The recent law enforcement crackdown was coordinated by the Illinois Department of Transportation as part of the Statewide Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over and Click It or Ticket campaigns.

… that January is human trafficking awareness month in Illinois. Since 2011, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services has investigated more than 600 allegations of child human trafficking. Most of the reports involved children being victimized within blocks of where they live. Anyone who suspects or knows a child is a victim of human trafficking, call 911 and the DCFS Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline 1-800-25-ABUSE. To learn more about how to recognize the signs of human trafficking, visit DCFS.Illinois.gov.

… that the statewide average temperature for December was 40.6 degrees, 10.7 degrees above average and the warmest December on record. This December beat the old record by 1.7 degrees that was set in 1923. For the year, the annual average temperature for Illinois was 52.8 degrees, 0.4 degrees above average. 

… that the statewide average precipitation in December was 6.70 inches, 4.01 inches above average, and the second wettest on record. The wettest December on record was in 1982 with 7.17. For the entire year, 2015 was the sixth wettest year on record with 48.49 inches, 8.53 inches above average.

 … that Kalamazoo Beer Week is Jan. 16-23. As the upcoming brew capital of the nation, when is Evanston’s beer week?

… As of Jan. 1, pumpkin pie is the State’s official pie. Guess the legislators had nothing better to do than sit around and sample pie for the last six months. Or, maybe they were too busy doing that to think about resolving the budget crisis.

… that drivers of gas guzzling cars who park in spots designated for electric vehicles will face a $75 fine under a new State law if they are caught.

… that an estimated 1 million drones were given as Christmas gifts last month. Residents will be glad to know that the City of Evanston’s two-year moratorium on the use of drones in the City expired in May 2015. The City’s Planning and Development Committee decided not to renew the moratorium because the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration adopted a bunch of rules regulating drones. Under the FAA’s regulations, owners must register their drones if they weigh more than 0.55 pounds, but people do not need approval from the FAA to fly a drone for recreational or hobby use. FAA guidance says, though, “Model aircraft should be flown a sufficient distance from populated areas and full scale aircraft, should be kept within visual line of sight of the operator, should weigh under 55 lbs. unless certified by an aeromodelling community-based organization, and cannot be used for business purposes.”
In August 2015, Illinois pols decided to form a task force to come up with rules for the use of drones in the State. Members of the task force will be appointed by the governor and will include representatives from more than a dozen special interest groups, including law enforcement. Members of the task force are required to submit recommendations by July 1, 2016. Whether or not to ban using drones for hunting may be an issue; some groups have already opposed such a ban. Maybe the NRA will concoct an argument that gun-toting drones are protected under
the Second Amendment.

… that Gas Buddy estimates that motorists will spend $325 billion at the pump next year, about $17 billion less than in 2015, as the price of gas is expected to decline for the fourth straight year. Motorists spent about $134 billion less on gas in 2015 than in 2014. “While there are always some unforeseeable surprises, we’re confident that when we reach the end of 2016, the roller coaster ride will net savings over fuel purchases of last year, especially for savvy motorists who shop for the cheapest gasoline prices,” said Gregg Laskoski, GasBuddy senior petroleum analyst.

… that plowing parking lots in the wee hours of the morning became an issue. Phil Gordon wrote to James Maiworm, the City’s Bureau Chief – Infrastructure Maintenance, that he was awakened at 4:30 a.m.  “to the sounds of heavy machinery (blades dragging repeatedly across the pavement), vehicles backing up frequently (making the beep beep beep), etc. Despite living on the 9th floor of my building, it sounded like this equipment was in my bedroom, making a return to sleep impossible. I am writing to you and hoping we can find a solution that works for everyone.” Mr. Gordon suggested that a better time to clear the parking lots might be in the late evening, after businesses in the area were closed.
Mr. Maiworm responded, “We typically clear snow from the business areas during the overnight hours as we can typically be assured that all the cars will be moved and we can gain maximum operational access. We do have flexibility in regards to our start times and if that section of Benson is open and available we can certainly start a shift earlier so we can be away from the residential areas faster. Perhaps a start time around 10 p.m. would work on your block as we could likely be done and gone by midnight?”

TG hopes that works. It is difficult to accommodate all interests and still clear the streets and parking lots.

From Our Readers: TG: Wow! Is Metra crowded these days or what?
On Wednesday I took the 5:08 p.m. train from Ogilvie to Davis Street, arriving about 4 minutes before departure and had to stand the whole way. On Thursday, I wised up, arriving 10 minutes before departure and got a seat (the rear car was already filled, though), but the train was even more crowded. The aisles were completely clogged with standees by the time it left Ogilvie. It was so crowded that the conductor never got to our car to collect fares. I assume this is all because of the Purple Line construction, which is forcing more people onto the Metra. What will it take for Metra to decide to add more cars in response?
Then there’s train number 314 which departs Davis Street at 7:38 a.m. for Ogilvie. It’s a popular train, since it makes no stops before Clybourn, but good luck finding a seat on it if you get on at Davis. I’ve given up on it and take a later train.
Shouldn’t Metra be adding more cars in these unusual conditions? – Steve Cohen

From TG: Thanks for your letter. TG suggests sending your letter to the powers at Metra. Adding a car to overcrowded trains seems like a no-brainer, assuming there’s a few extra cars available.

The Traffic Guy thinks …
… that, given these tense times around the globe, let us all hope, as Dr. King said, that the “moral arc of the universe bends toward justice.”

… that this strange winter weather can be kind of a learning platform for gardeners. The recent snow and sleet did not seem to do much harm to tender perennials like lavender, and some sages are still going strong. Buds on shrubs and bushes, while not bursting (thankfully), may make it safely to spring.