After considering Kensington School’s outline proposals – including concept review discussions at the City of Evanston’s Design and Project Review Committee meeting on Sept. 29, we feel compelled to express several concerns – most of which relate to the likely traffic-related impacts and hazards in and around our neighborhood.
School capacity and associated traffic loads: According to the City of Evanston’s “Planned Development Application and Special Use Application” dated Aug. 28, 2020, for a proposed redevelopment on Hurd Avenue with apparently the same building size and design (which failed to receive approval from City of Evanston mainly on account of its anticipated traffic impacts), we can anticipate a facility operating with up to 165 students, along with 23 staff members. This doesn’t include the additional visitors, including those associated with deliveries, collections and maintenance. This project will affect the residents on Central Street and those on adjacent roadways (Princeton Avenue, Greely Avenue, Crawford Avenue, Grosse Point Road), which will somehow need to deal with an additional 188+ vehicles each day.
Queuing traffic impacts: Considering how long it typically takes for individual cars to either drop off or pick up preschool students, the proposed parking and vehicle circulation area will be quite inadequate for accommodating any more than a small fraction (12 or so) of something approaching 200 vehicles entering and leaving the site in a day.
In other words, there will be a long queue of traffic for extended periods in the mornings and afternoons, with the following impacts:
1. Blocking residents’ driveways and impeding access to private homes by residents, visitors, delivery vehicles and vehicles associated with home and yard maintenance.
2. Creating disturbance with car engines running for long periods, with honking horns when conflicts erupt and queuing behavior takes a turn for the worse.
3. Impeding the normal and safe movement of traffic, including traffic using Central and adjacent streets; traffic using Central as a shortcut to Old Orchard Road; emergency service vehicles; delivery vehicles; garbage trucks (three different collections each week); and vehicles associated with road sweeping, snow clearance, and other street maintenance activities.
4. When imagining all the local residents who frequently walk around our neighborhood – including elderly folks, people walking their dogs, children on bicycles and scooters, it’s very easy to imagine how a long queue of cars and trucks will be a big problem – not just a nuisance, but also a safety hazard – especially in the absence of any proper sidewalks on either side of Central.
5. In winter, when snow cannot be moved entirely off the road, traffic will be queuing nearer the middle of the road, making it hazardous and difficult for other traffic, pedestrians and road users.
6. On days before, during and after garbage & yard waste collections, up to three large cans occupy the sides of the street where pedestrians would typically walk. This existing hazard would be exacerbated substantially in the presence of queuing traffic and those attempting to park in/around the school.
7. Based on driver behavior seen and recorded elsewhere in/around school zones, it is highly doubted that either street signage or parking enforcement will be effective or a sufficient deterrent to prevent the above problems.
Co-op residences: Another concern is for our neighbors in the co-ops who share the parking area with Unity church. What type of access will they have during the proposed school hours of 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.?
Outside traffic: Considering the demographics of our neighborhood (relatively few young children, quite a few older residents) versus those most likely to have students attending the proposed school, I strongly suspect that almost all the drivers of those students will reside outside of our community and will be less concerned about their impacts on our community than making their pick-up/drop-off schedules, assuming they’re not already distracted and preoccupied with their cellphones.
Traffic impacts at Crawford/Gross Point/Central interchange: Many of us walk to and from the bus stop on Crawford (opposite The Little Island). Over the years, we get to see the appalling behavior of drivers trying to push or race their way through that interchange. With the additional load of impatient and preoccupied drivers dashing across Gross Point, it is difficult not to contemplate the inevitable traffic tragedies and messes that will ensue. Adding yet another “fountain” of traffic in/out of Central will surely be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Another important consideration is that this interchange is a critical emergency vehicle route to Evanston and Skokie hospitals.
Mary Drotar and Chris Parker