The ERTDEL is being converted to a space for Kingsley School parents to park.RoundTable photo

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… that applications for special events are due Jan. 31. It’s always fun to look at the applications, to see what fun summer events are coming up. One surprise for Evanstonians and art lovers may be the discontinuance of the Lakeshore Arts Fest-ival after 43 years. The Ethnic Arts Festival will be on July 15 and 16.

… that those who felt that 2016 was just a liiiiiiiiiitle too long were right. World timekeepers announced last July that they were going to add a leap second just before midnight on Dec. 31, 2016. Leap seconds have been added 26 times since 1972; they are put in either at the end of June or the end of December. Before the December one, the most recent such leap second was added on June 30, 2015, and the one before that was June 30, 2012. The extra second is added to official timekeeping mainly to keep the increasingly electronic world in sync.

… that the Evanston Police Department released information about its Dec. 16-Jan. 1 safety campaign: 58 failure to wear safety belt citations; 33 driving while distracted/cellular phone violations; 9 speeding citations; 4 no proof of insurance citations; 2 driving while license suspended arrests; and 11 other miscellaneous citations. People, there is no excuse for not wearing a seat belt.

… that State Climatologist Jim Angel and his crew report that things were cold last month and dry all year: “The statewide average temperature for December was 28.6 degrees, 1.3 degrees below normal,” and “the statewide average precipitation for 2016 was 39.63 inches, 0.33 inches below normal. Eight out of the 12 months had below-normal precipitation. The year would have been dry except for the record rainfall in July and August.”

… that gas prices in the Chicago area rose 7.8 cents per gallon in the last week of last year, averaging  $2.64/gallon on Jan. 3, according to GasBuddy’s daily survey of 1,437 gas outlets in Chicago. Including those changes in gas prices in Chicago, prices in early January were 49.1 cents per gallon higher than the same day one year ago and 26.3 cents per gallon higher than a month ago. The national average has risen during the last month and stands 35.4 cents per gallon higher than on Jan. 3, 2016. Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy, said, “In 2016, motorists spent an average $2.13 per gallon on gasoline, the cheapest yearly average since 2004, and 28 cents lower than 2015, but if motorists made a resolution to pay less in 2017, they either broke it already or aren’t planning on driving for a while. While nearly 100,000 gas stations in the country were selling for $1.99 per gallon a year ago, fewer than 3,000 are today. Though we may see rising gas prices take a brief break in early February, we’re unlikely to come anywhere close to last year’s low levels. … For the upcoming year, it’s not a rosy picture at the pump: GasBuddy’s 2017 Fuel Outlook predicts motorists will be seeing the highest prices of the year and will shell out [$355 billion] $52 billion more over the course of the year compared to 2016 as the national yearly average rises to $2.49 per gallon.” GasBuddy also predicts $3/gal. gas in large cities such as L.A., N.Y.C., and – the one with a name, not initials – Chicago.  Other factors in the mix that results in gas prices are federal and/or state tax changes, Middle East volatility, currency fluctuations, refinery maintenance and/or unscheduled outages, weather events, and shipping/transportation snafus.

… that Jan. 21 is Squirrel Appreciation Day. Two years ago, on Squirrel Appreciation Day 2105, Dani Tinker wrote “10 Nutty Facts to Make You Appreciate Squirrels” on the National Wildlife Federation blog. Here they are: 1) Squirrels can find food buried beneath a foot of snow [great olfactory sense]; 2) a squirrel’s front teeth never stop growing [well, they are rodents];  3) squirrels may lose 25% of their buried food to thieves – birds or fellow squirrels; 4) they zigzag to escape predators (a useful trick when avoiding hawks but not infallible with cars); 5) squirrels may have to pretend to bury a nut to throw off potential thieves – this is called “deceptive caching”; 6) a newborn squirrel is about an inch long; 7) humans introduced squirrels to most major city parks; 8) squirrels are acrobatic, intelligent, and adaptable (note birdfeeder behavior); 9) they get bulky to stay warm during the winter; and 10) squirrels don’t dig up all their buried nuts, which results in more trees.

From our readers: TG: I don’t mean to disagree with the commenters complaining about their experiences with the new configuration on Green Bay Road, but my experiences are different. Coming at the Emerson intersection from the south, I find that both left turns onto Emerson and heading straight north on Green Bay are better than before, though I agree that better signage would be a good thing for those unfamiliar with the intersection. And it’s also nice that left turns from Southbound Green Bay onto Emerson are now allowed.
On another matter, those of us who live on the 1500 block of Elmwood have been without pedestrian or vehicular access to our street since the summer.  This was supposed to end on Dec. 31, but the construction of 1571 Maple is way behind that schedule and it’s now inconceivable that we’ll get access back as soon as promised.  
Although I am cynical about such promises, do you know what is the new target date for getting our street back? And is the City happy with this situation? To my way of thinking,
the need to completely close a street for a year is a strong argument against approval of
a construction project. – Steven Cohen

From TG: Thank you, Mr. Cohen.
Rajeev Dahal, Senior Project Manager in the City’s Public Works Department, told this paper that larger signs “advising the proper lane usage are on order and should be installed as soon as the contractor receives them.” TG is looking for an answer to your second question.

TG: Big Foot and the Loch Ness Monster no longer have anything on us. We’ve got the ERTDEL (Evanston’s Right Turn Dead End Lane). Just go south on Green Bay toward McCormick. As you’re approaching McCormick, get over into the right turn lane. And there, right before you start to make your turn, a curb surrounding a grass patch will come out of nowhere. Like Big Foot, it appears without warning. But it never goes into hiding. It’s always there. And here’s the real mystery. Nobody knows why it exists.
Judging from the tire tracks running through the grass patch, some people just don’t respect a right turn lane dead end lane when they see one.  
I wonder how often the City will have to replant the grass. Probably cheaper than putting up a warning sign, I suspect.
ERTDEL is a new addition to Evanston. Before there was a dead end, you could just use the right turn lane to turn onto McCormick. Evidently, the City decided we needed another tourist stop.  I’m thinking of putting up a combination souvenir/tire repair store nearby.
When you pull up to get your flat tire fixed from running over the curb, you can browse the many fine t-shirts, hats and ashtrays that all say, “I SURVIVED ERTDEL.” We’ll also have the “I-didn’t-survive” version to complete our selection. At any rate, go see it. It’s a real car-stopper. – Jim Signorelli
From TG: Mr. Signorelli, TG applauds your wit and your budding entrepreneurship. And the answer about the ERTDEL from Mr. Dahal may seem disappointingly prosaic, though it is quite practical (not using that phrase): “Previous to start of construction, there were three lanes on southbound Green Bay at McCormick, one right turn and two through lanes. As Green Bay south of McCormick has only one southbound lane now, the approach lanes have also been redone so that there in one right-turn lane and one through lane to align with the new reconfiguration. The extra lane is being converted for parking by Kingsley School so that parents have somewhere else to park besides Prairie Avenue which gets really congested during drop-off and pick-up hours.” TG thinks that would also be a great place for your shop.

The Traffic Guy thinks …

… that, with all the confusion – and odd conclusions – about filing dates for candidates and whether Evanston holds non-partisan or independent elections, it would be hard to make up something as fantastic as this Evanston election season so far. Maybe they should just put on the ballot everyone who filed and move the election to April Fool’s Day.