The Traffic Guy hears …
…that the Fountain Square project is nearly complete, it’s just that there is no fountain. Apparently, a problem with water pressure means the fountain does not work and there is no real timetable for getting it up and running. The Traffic Guy predicts the fountain will flow just in time for the first freeze this fall.

… that the cuts into Sherman Avenue are for utility work (water and sewer) or the Albion project. In the short time horizon, this pavement will have temporary patches installed. At the end of the project, Albion will resurface this section of Sherman. Full restoration will be the next construction season following the completion of the project in approximately 18 months.

… that construction is about to begin on the Albion project where patrons recently flowed to and from Prairie Moon and Tommy Nevins. Safety barriers were up July 17, and the blue “no parking” bags draped over parking meters. Once those barriers go up, they are not likely to come down for about a year. Sherman Avenue continued to flow as normal, but the parking was gone on both sides. Parkers beware.

….that summer construction season also means limited City meetings and activity. Vacation season sets in for the Mayor (the Canadian Rockies, TG has learned) and others. With limited news to report other than ongoing projects, Traffic Guy must turn to the readers.

…that pavement patching is coming to Chicago Avenue beginning the week of July 23, as part of the Motor Fuel Tax resurfacing project. If the weather is nice, the project should be finished the same week it begins. Watch out for more lane closures and, alas, delays.

….that the Traffic Guy’s call for opinions on the new Ridge-Lake traffic light configuration generated a good number of responses. There’s still time to weigh in if you have opinions or observations you’d like to share. First, those who like the new turn signals.

TG: I live and work two doors down from the corner of Lake and Ridge and am one of many who actively petitioned the mayor and City engineering to add left turn arrows at the intersection and reduce the speed limit on Ridge.  Since the changes were made, the intersection is objectively much safer for everyone who uses it – especially children who use it daily en route to Dewey, Nichols, ETHS, the YMCA, Cherry Preschool and Penny Park… [before the change we heard] car crashes at all hours – including times children travel to and from school.  Many of the accidents were violent, with airbags deployed and ambulances required…

Prior to the changes, the intersection was among the top three in Evanston for car accidents. My understanding is that accidents have declined dramatically since the changes. — Alex Weiner

TG: The new light at Lake and Ridge is absolutely dumb. It does nothing to improve the flow of traffic on Ridge. Get rid of the three-way arrow… — Jim Forbes

TG: The new stoplight setup at Ridge and Lake. We live near this intersection, and, although it’s been a while since we heard a loud crash followed by blaring sirens, the backup of traffic on both Ridge and Lake is abominable. During rush hours, cars are backed up beyond Greenwood on Ridge and beyond Oak on Lake. There is increased pollution from idling cars and buses. Noise from honking has increased. When possible, cars race through the intersection in order to beat the long light. The City should consider the overall impact of this change and share the evaluation data with the public. Alternative solutions that result in a safer intersection should be explored. – Peter Gann

TG: I would like to take a broader view of the practice of adjusting speed limits and lights to slow traffic in the interest of safety. Let’s consider costs and benefits:

Costs: The obvious cost is time. Time spent on the road, time the delivery person, estimator, repair person is not at a destination. But there’s also a cost in materials: Gas, wear and tear on stop-and-go vehicles. And there is more pollution from stopped or slow traffic. There is even a cost in health, not just from air quality; being stuck in traffic when late increases blood pressure and general angst.

Benefits: The advertised benefit is safety, the reduction of fender benders (these are not high-speed thruways). But wait – increased congestion leads to frustration. And some angry, late and frustrated drivers are prone to road rage. They speed when the way opens up, they run lights as yellow turns to red, they tailgate. Sitting in slow traffic, some may also give in to dangerous distractions (a cell phone, a radio to tune, a schedule to check). And some drivers will avoid the congestion by zooming through side streets (do we care about children?).

Perhaps these “fixes” need some more thought. – Michael Levine

From TG: Obviously there is a variety of opinions on the new light, installed just a few months ago. The Traffic Guy will monitor the situation to see if there is a real impact on wrecks, but given the lighter “school’s out” traffic, will wait until Thanksgiving or so.

Speaking of differences of opinion, Ms. Elwood stoked a bit of a fire by challenging the Chicago and Church bike lane lights.

TG: There are turn restrictions on Chicago Ave because cyclists frequently experience “right hooks,” where turning vehicles fail to yield to cyclists. Cyclists shouldn’t have to fear for their lives every time they go out. The red arrow isn’t completely effective, I’ve seen plenty of vehicles violate it and make the turn when they aren’t supposed to. There is no war on cars, merely a slight inconvenience to keep everyone safe. Hopefully the City continues to make the streets even safer. – Reuben Perelman

TG: For such a progressive city, I am continually astonished by the old-fashioned, out-of-touch opinions posted
by the TG and my fellow citizens in regards to bikes and biking in Evanston. In response to Kelley Elwood, yes, there are lights just for bikers, because they help separate all modes of transportation.  It isn’t always about your convenience.  Just because you didn’t see a biker there, right when you are there, doesn’t mean the bikers don’t exist. I am often
riding my bike and don’t see cars around, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. …. I’m not advocating for removing the automobile infrastructure.

Evanston is known for being very friendly for bicyclists. This benefits all of us and the economy as they ride through town and shop at our businesses. Bikers pay taxes like the rest of you and deserve respect and protection on the few roads with bike infrastructure.

– Andy Schwarz

From TG: The Traffic Guy knows  better than to wade into an argument between bike advocates and those hoping for a simpler commute. At the same time, the Traffic Guy stands by last issue’s comment – City roadways are all about balancing the needs of automobiles, bicycles and pedestrians. Sometimes the balance gets out of whack. Sure, advocate for your preferred mode, at the same time, the City needs to adjust rules when the balance is off.

Keep the comments coming – more next time.