The lakefill path is closed for repairs Photo by Les Jacobson

… that Northwestern’s lakefill path is closed while crews repair the wave and water damage. The path could be closed until next spring.

… that the City is getting ready for winter. A contract with the Morton Salt Company to purchase up to 7,500 tons of rock salt – at about $60 per ton – is in the works. The City typically sells some of this to each of the school districts at just above cost – adding a bit on for its version of shipping and handling.

… that earlier this month, the Evanston Fire Department held a “push-in” ceremony for its new Engine Co. 22 at Station 2, 702 Madison St. Firefighters wetted and dried the new engine and, after a blessing by the chaplain, pushed it into the station. The “push-in” tradition dates back to the times of horse-drawn fire engines.

… the City also has a new vehicle – an electric van that will be used around the lakefront during special programs and events. It’s the first electric vehicle for the City, and officials promise more to come.

… that the City has received a $500,000 grant from the Cook County Department of Transportation and Highways to help offset the costs of the $5.4 million Main Street Corridor Improvement Project, which stretches along that wonderful business district from Maple to Hinman. Perhaps in a hopeful mood, the City is also applying for grant funds from the Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District for the project. If the State grant is approved, the City could receive up to $2 million. Readers will remember that the project includes the reconstruction of Main Street to improve the pedestrian environment, including sidewalks, ADA accommodations, and pedestrian access to transit, as well as new streetscape elements, roadway, and water main improvements. The “water improvements” could be completed next summer. The streetscape, roadwork, lighting and other improvements are scheduled for 2022.

 … that the section of Dodge between Lake and Church has been designated “Black Lives Matter Way.” Readers may recall that over the July 4 weekend, current and former athletes – most from the basketball teams – painted “BLACK LIVES MATTER” in large yellow letters on the street in front of the high school. Traffic has worn down some of the lettering, so the sign, which should remain for 10 years, will reinforce the message.  

… that, speaking of honorifics, Harbert Park is about to get a new name, Harbert Payne Park, honoring two Elizabeths – Elizabeth Boynton Harbert and Betty Payne. The City recounts that “when Elizabeth Harbert came to Evanston in 1874, she helped found the Evanston Political Equality League and later served as president of the Illinois Woman’s Suffrage Association. In the national movement, she was a close associate of both Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, and a firm supporter of their approach which was to emphasize women’s equal rights and status with men. In 1889, she founded and served as the first president of one of Evanston’s oldest organizations, The Woman’s Club of Evanston.

“Betty J. Payne was a long-time Evanston resident, neighborhood activist and organizer of the Canal Park Neighbors. She served as the Evanston Township Treasurer for two consecutive terms. Her love for animals inspired her to become a generous supporter of the Humane Society and philanthropist to many notable causes including creating and funding the Stanton Payne Westinghouse Vocational High School Scholarship Program. This program granted college scholarships to many deserving Westinghouse graduates, affording them the opportunity to further their education. Ms. Payne exhibited a tremendous sense of civic pride that inspired her to uplift and educate the youth, elderly and community as a whole in participating civically within local government.”

… that the City is amending the section of the City code regarding parking on parkways and sidewalks. Here is the new deal: “The vehicle will be allowed to park on the parkway if there is an approved substrate/surface, the vehicle fits entirely between the sidewalk, street, and concrete curbing inner edges where it meets the parkway, is registered with the State of Illinois with a current license plate, and can be moved with proper notice if required.” Violators will of course be subject to a fine.

… that, until Nov. 20, crews from Duke’s Root Control will be treating about 22,000 feet of sewer mains with a foaming herbicide to keep tree roots out of the pipes. Here’s what the City says: “The purpose of the application is to kill the root growth in the lines and to inhibit re-growth, without permanently damaging the vegetation producing the roots. The chemical herbicide used is registered with and approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.”

From our readers: TG: I have lived in a high-rise condo in downtown Evanston, overlooking the Metra Davis Street station.  This past Sunday morning I observed something I’ve never seen before, not in the five years I’ve lived here or in 20-plus years as an Evanston resident before that: a freight train headed southbound over the tracks, carrying a chain of coal cars.  I’ve never seen a freight train over these tracks before, let alone one carrying coal.  I got to thinking, “Where could this train possibly be heading?” Obviously not Ogilvie Station, which has no coal-handling facilities, so it must be some side track, perhaps at Goose Island or other location.  What might you know, Traffic Guy about such trains? How common are there and where might their destination be?

— Steve Cohen

From TG: Thank you for the question, Mr. Cohen. TG did a bit of research and found that Katie Pyzyk of the Chicago Department of Transportation wrote for its magazine in 2018: “Six of North America’s major freight rail companies — BNSF, Canadian National, Canadian Pacific, CSX, Norfolk Southern and Union Pacific — are split among different regions, but they all converge in Chicago.”

TG also found – and these are probable the tip of a very fascinating iceberg – an article written in 2017 in Inside Track: “Chicago: Balancing Freight and Commuters at the World’s Busiest Terminal.” The story had several salient points: “Six U.S. Class One railroads, two “switcher” railroads, 11 commuter Metra lines and various railroad maintenance crews share track throughout the city of Chicago.”

Here’s what the story says about Evanston: “In the pre-dawn drizzle of an early fall day, commuters in Evanston, Illinois, a suburb just north of Chicago, watch an inbound Metra train pull into the station at precisely 6:13 a.m. They line up where they know doors will most likely open and sort themselves out, some heading to the upper deck for the tree-top view. As the passengers settle in with newspapers, books, laptops and cell phones, the train begins its journey on elevated track, passing over bridges built more than a century ago and winding through even older residential neighborhoods.” Embarking at the Olgivie Transportation Center, “most [passengers] aren’t aware they have just traveled through a small part of a vast network known among railroaders as the Chicago Terminal, through which a quarter of the nation’s freight also travels: more than 3 million freight cars annually.” Chicago is the busiest freight hub in the U.S. (or was then – who know what COVID-19 has wrought?).

Beginning at about 3 in the morning, the director of train management for Union Pacific checks to be sure the freight trains are clear of the commuter tracks. Between rush hours, freight trains – some of them staged as far away as Iowa – begin to replace commuter trains on the same tracks. The destination of the train you saw, Mr. Cohen, was likely the Proviso hump yard west of the Loop.

TG: Does anyone wonder why the EV charging stations the City provides are offered for free? The cost to fill a gas tank may be roughly $40-$50. Assume the cost of the electricity to charge an EV is a scant fraction of that, perhaps several dollars, maybe $2. Given that most buyers of these cars can afford such a cost to fill the batteries up and that we have a robust system to collect $2 parking charges, why don’t we charge a premium for parking at an EV spot to cover the cost to Com Ed that the City pays? -Ralph M Segall

From TG: Thank you, Mr. Segall. It may be that folks at the City anticipated your question and have begun to address your challenge by no longer having free parking at those stations. The fee is now $1 per hour and the maximum length at the station is three hours. The City is keeping the rate low to incentivize people to use electric vehicles.

The Traffic Guy thinks …

… that people are making the most of this lovely fall weather, conscious on at least some level that the coming months could be brutal and lonely.

… that it is unfortunate that it took City crews so long to address the defacement of this backstop, located in a City park.