Shaving off three feet of width and turning parking by 45 degrees on Poplar Avenue will save the City of Evanston a lot of potential cost and risk in the future, according to Senior Project Manager Chris Venatta.
Venatta delivered a brief presentation and fielded questions at a special Seventh Ward meeting Tuesday focused on the Poplar Avenue Improvement Project, in which the city will repave the street from Livingston Street to the north to the dead end past Colfax Street to the south, skipping the intersection with Central Street in the middle.
The project is planned in two phases, and work is tentatively scheduled to begin on Sept. 6. The first phase will repave from Livingston down to Harrison Street and replace a water main between Central and Harrison over four to six weeks; the second phase, covering Harrison to the dead end past Colfax, will take four to five weeks.
This work will include repaving all of surface parking lot No. 54, which is metered parking up and down the entire street adjacent to the Central Street Metra station and the railroad more broadly.
Venatta told the Seventh Ward audience of roughly 20 people that the western three feet of lot 54 is owned by Union Pacific, requiring the city to lease the land. He said eliminating that leased land was a priority in the repavement plan, as it currently leaves the city vulnerable if the company decides to increase its lease rate or sell the land to another private owner.
“After discussion with various city departments, we decided there was a lot of risk involved,” Venatta said. “We ended up redesigning the project to eliminate this lease, which caused a road width reduction.”
The plan includes two solutions to mitigate the impact this thinning will have on street parking.
On the north end from Livingston to Central, metered parking will be angled 45 degrees facing south. This keeps the street’s two-way traffic while restricting parking spaces to southbound drivers.
On the south end from Central to the dead end, on-street residential parking will be eliminated. Residents’ parking passes will shift to the surface lot, where groups of spaces will be permit parking instead of metered.
Some attendees disagreed with these solutions, however, contending they won’t do enough to relieve the effects the narrowing will have on traffic in the area.
Trish Stieglitz said the narrower road and southward angle would exacerbate the congestion experienced during large events like Northwestern University football games. She suggested angling the spots northward.
“Angling the parking spots to naturally direct those people towards Livingston and the light would make more sense than directing them to Central,” Stieglitz said. “I live on Livingston, and Central Street is awful any time of day.”
Venatta responded that angling the spaces north while keeping the road two-way would be unsafe, as drivers would have to cut across the other lane to both park and exit. He added that the number of cars that usually park in the north end’s metered spots is too low to consider switching that stretch to one-way, which would have a greater effect on the entire area’s traffic.