Residents in the Central Street-Green Bay Road area are voicing reservations about some of the proposed features of an improvement project planned for north Green Bay Road, including a possible narrowing of the street along one section of the busy roadway.
In a meeting at the City’s Ecology Center Dec. 11, a number of residents raised objections to a design recommendation in the officials’ plan, making Green Bay Road one lane for a stretch after it leaves Wilmette.
Officials are trying to establish a transition as cars leave the one lane of Green Bay in Wilmette and enter Evanston, where the road markings indicate two lanes, said Sat Nagar, the City’s Senior Project Manager, leading the presentation.
Officials are looking at making that stretch in Evanston one lane similar to Wilmette, and then opening it up to two lanes in each direction just north of Livingston Street, Mr. Nagar said.
Officials believe the change would cut down speeding and also promote greater safety for cars which leave the Whole Foods lot on the corner of Isabella, and then enter the traffic stream, with cars “moving so fast,” under the current configuration, Mr. Nagar said.
But a number of speakers at the nearly one-and-a-half hour meeting urged officials to keep the lanes as they are.
“Green Bay has been a thoroughfare since it was asphalt and this is a behavioral issue not an engineering issue,” said Chuck Psotka, a lifelong resident in the Central Street area. “If there’s a 12-foot lane or two [12-feet lanes] people are going to speed. That’s a behavioral issue. I don’t think engineering is the way to solve that issue.”
Another speaker raised concern that officials not repeat some of the mistakes of the improvement project done on Green Bay’s south end several years ago.
“I’ve never seen traffic backups in all directions, since that part of the street was redesigned,” maintained Michael Vasilko.
He said officials also need to take into consideration Central Street in their planning and the traffic from Northwestern University moving east to west.
“So you’ve got to consider all these impacts “ he told officials. “You’re trying to solve one problem and you’re going to cause a lot of other problems.”
Carl Bova, another speaker, expressed concern that the changes could “entice people to
move off Green Bay Road and use the side streets.”
At the meeting, residents also raised concern about recommendations in the plan to add
more on-street parking, narrowing the road further.
Aldermen approved a $327,671 contract with Lisle-based Kimley-Horn & Associates in October for planning and engineering services to develop the plan for Green Bay.
Officials have embarked on the planning phase of the project. developing a plan because of a federal funding opportunity, Mr. Nagar said.
Staff considers the project to be a good candidate for an application for the Surface Transportation Program funding which is administered by the Northshore Council of Mayors, officials said in their memo. The next call for projects is expected in early 2020, they said.
The City, working with another contractor, completed the section of Green Bay south of McCormick in 2016-17.
Green Bay between McCormick and Isabella figures as a major north-south arterial, connecting north shore communities with Chicago, Mr. Nagar noted.
As for the project goal, “we need to make sure that Green Bay is safe” for the different uses, which include pedestrians, cyclists, bus users, as well as cars, he said.
“The land use adjacent to Green Bay Road consists of commercial, residential and school areas,” officials said in a memo on the project. “The Metra Union Pacific North Line has a major train station at Central Street adjacent to Green Bay Road. Pace buses have stops along the Green Bay Bay Corridor as well.”
Compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act is a major focus of the project too, with some intersections not meeting standards, Mr. Nagar said.
In addition, there are “a lot of traffic system backups,” observed Mr. Nagar. “We need to modernize the signals.
“Also we are looking at businesses,” he added. “We need to see how we can enhance Green Bay Road. Can we do some streetscape? Can we have some trees along the way?”
“This is the first meeting, to introduce the project,” he stressed for residents. “Whatever we have on these [design] boards is not finalized. We are just coming to you in terms of developing some concepts and saying, ‘Hey, what do you think?’”