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July 21, 2018

7/9/2018 7:41:00 PM
The Traffic Guy Hears ...

... that work on the Chicago Avenue / Sheridan Road Corridor Project is winding down. Lincoln will be closed at Sheridan though July 19, but emergency services at the City of Evanston and Northwestern University will be coordinated for safety. The road is scheduled to reopen on July 20 for both pedestrian and vehicular traffic. Crews will set up a detour for eastbound Lincoln traffic to use Orrington to Noyes Street if the destination is south and Orrington to Central Street if the destination is north. Once construction on the west side of Sheridan is complete, traffic will be switched onto the new lanes to accommodate road reconstruction of the east side. The City promises that workers will attempt to minimize inconveniences to residents.

… that those marching along the parade route next Fourth of July might notice brighter, freshly painted fire hydrants. The last section of the City in a five-year program to repaint all hydrants includes the westernmost part of Central Street. Sandblasting, priming and painting begins July 9 and should be finished by Sept. 13. Oh, and the hydrants will be regular red, not purple or pink or blue.

…that the flag bus stops along the section of Dodge between Main and Oakton may be going away, replaced by regular old posted bus stops. Right now, riders wave to the bus to get it to stop, a system perceived as problematic for those with accessibility issues. Citizens are invited to a meeting July 17 at 6:30 p.m. at the Levy Center to weigh in. The Traffic Guy notes that this is another fallout from the protected bike lanes on Dodge, which push bus riders farther away from the street and can place a line of parked cars in the way when riders try to flag down buses. Also, navigating across the bike lane to board a bus can be difficult. Unintended consequences and ramifications continue to flow from the oddly configured lanes… but then again, perhaps the antiquated “wave for my bus” system needed to go anyway. Current plans show three posted stops each way between Main and Oakton, at Washington, Monroe-Cleveland, and Keeney.

… that the pigmentation barrage in northwest Evanston is not limited to red hydrants this year. Pavement striping also kicked off July 9, roughly between Green Bay and McCormick. Most of the yellow and white stripes will be in “thermoplastic material… a type of reflectorized pavement marking material that is applied to the surface through a heat fusion process.” Stripes last three to five years, and then we do it all over again. Unless, of course, the street gets torn up for another reason, the fancy stripes with it. Oh, yes, “crews will also be striping areas throughout the City that were removed due to asphalt pavement patching this spring,” says the City.

…. that the motor fuel tax road resurfacing is underway for the six segments chosen for new pavement this year. As readers will likely recall, a five-cent-per-gallon tax collected at each visit to the pump is earmarked for road resurfacing. TG has heard, though, that some streets were shut down to parking last week with no sign of resurfacing. Stay tuned.

…that while everyone knows even the water treatment plant needs new doors, residents might be surprised to learn the cost – $80,500. At least the Water Fund pays for it, meaning ratepayers are footing the bill, spreading the cost among more than just Evanston taxpayers. Evanston taxpayers, though, will purchase the materials, labor and everything else for the new roof at Fire Station #2, 702 Madison –$234,057. To add a bit of salt to the wound, the project came in more than $14,000 over budget, requiring the City to dip into the Facilities Contingency fund to cover the full cost.

…the City will be entering into a Memorandum of Understanding with the CTA for the modernization of the Purple Line in Evanston, part of the CTA’s massive “Red Purple Modernization” project. The City will engage in a little “TIF magic” to fund its portion of the project. It seems there will be $1,000,000 left in the Washington National TIF when it closes at the end of the year, even after the TIF funds the entire $7 million of Fountain Square renovations. Purple Line riders are likely aware that the Davis Street station is pretty much the only modernized Purple Line station in the City. Still the City will tie its matching funds to the Davis Street station so it can use TIF dollars to fund it. Using the surplus, of course, shortchanges the school districts and the other taxing bodies of the TIF when it comes time to retire the TIF later this year.

…that residents who see an odd truck dropping what looks like a bowling ball onto the street should not be alarmed – it is just the pavement-condition evaluation project that began June 15. The results will show what streets need the most attention when the City makes repaving and repair decisions. The project was funded by general obligation bonds taxpayers will be repaying for the next 20 to 30 years, but the results are only good for about five years.

….that the rideshare revolution continues to impact streets. Two former taxicab-only parking spots are slated to be converted to “loading zones” for Uber, Lyft, general passenger drop-off, or plain old taxis, at 1007 Church. Another loading zone is coming to the Ice House Gallery at 609 South Boulevard, but the Ice House zone looks to be for loading and unloading of artist materials and works rather than passengers.

From our readers: TG: More than one Evanston resident (i.e. my wife and myself) has noticed the faux flag banners that seem to be replacing the actual U.S. flags along Central Street this time of year.  We sure hope this is a temporary measure while the city rebuilds its inventory of Old Glory. -- Kenny Smith

From TG: Thanks, Mr. Smith. It seems the “real” flags are put up by one group and the bunting by another. Good to register your complaint, so folks can consider this in the Fourth preparations next year.

TG: A local activist (not me) printing signs, in attempt to get people to stop.  Should we do this Citywide? – Steve Norton

From TG: Thanks for the photo, Mr. Norton, and thanks for the suggestion. TG does not know where you took this and has seen at least one in the RT neighborhood and likes your idea of having these signs around town.

TG: We’re going to need to start installing bigger poles to accommodate all the directional signs. See the photo.

I also just noticed there is now a stop light specifically  for the bike lane on Chicago. I had a red light - couldn’t turn right - because the (empty) bike lane had the green. And the jaywalking bike lane [at Chicago and Davis] is still intact. Is there a war on cars in Etown?  Will bikers ever get a ticket for breaking the traffic rules?

Madness I tell you. – Kelley Elwood 

From TG: With seasonally appropriate apologies to “Jaws,” the City is going to need a bigger pole. Sign after sign after sign – and still TG sees confused motorists heading the wrong way every day. Change is difficult. Is there a “war on cars” in Evanston? TG thinks the City always tries to balance pedestrian, bike and vehicle traffic whenever and wherever they interact, but sometimes the balance just isn’t quite right. The stacked-up vehicles waiting to turn right onto Church from Chicago may be such a place. And the dedicated bike lanes and signals along Chicago, preventing a right turn onto Church, may be taking things a bit too far. Still, no one wants right-turning vehicles to take out bicyclists.

The Traffic Guy thinks …

… that it would be nice to hear what readers think of the new stoplight configuration at Lake and Ridge? The City converted the light to single direction north and south, permitting safer left turns. TG has noted backed-up traffic along Ridge as a result, but is curious to know what other riders and readers feel about the change.


Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, July 19, 2018
Comment by: Mike Muyres

Dear Traffic Guy:
You asked for feedback about the traffic signal change at the Ridge / Lake Intersection. Clearly the new timing pattern has created longer wait times and more back-ups than before, especially in the north/southbound direction on Ridge which accounts for most of the traffic. Longer waits and backups also cause more pollution as cars idle longer and need to accelerate from stopped. I canít speak to the safety change that was mentioned because I donít have the data but obviously an important aspect. It would have been nice to first see how the change to the lower speed limit impacted the overall accident rate before the signal change was implemented that way those two changes could have been evaluated separately. Perhaps the lower speed limit is providing the real safety improvement and the signal can be changed back to provide better traffic flow as before.

Posted: Tuesday, July 17, 2018
Comment by: Alex Weiner

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 ó especially children who use it daily en route to Dewey, Nichols, ETHS, the YMCA, Cherry Preschool and Penny Park.

The new light pattern gives ample time for cars to turn left onto Lake without facing oncoming traffic, addressing the main cause of crashes at the intersection. As well, this pattern provides more time for bikers and pedestrians to cross the intersection while only contending with traffic from one direction on Ridge.

We moved into our house in Dec 2016 and began hearing car crashes at all hours ó including times children travel to and from school. Many of the accidents were violent, with airbags deployed and ambulances required. More than one involved police or emergency vehicles hitting cars as they sped through the intersection. Some involved cars with kids on their way to school. More than one accident pushed cars up onto the sidewalk where people were standing just moments before. Under mounting frustration and out of genuine concern for my children and others in the neighborhood, I began emailing photographs of the accidents to the mayor, our alderman and our local elementary school principal, asking for help to make the intersection safer.
Fortunately, I was not alone in my concern and appreciate the others in my neighborhood and Evanston who helped to make this change happen.

Prior to the changes, the intersection was among the top 3 in Evanston for car accidents. My understanding is that accidents have declined dramatically since the changes. Traffic Guy should be able to get this data from the City and publish it in his next column. Then, we could weigh objective improvements in safety at all times against the minor inconveniences of a few honked horns and slightly longer lines during the morning and evening commutes...

The new pattern may not be perfect, but it is the best possible within a reasonable budget and within the legacy system that controls the lights on Ridge from Howard to Green Bay.

Posted: Monday, July 16, 2018
Comment by: Reuben Perelman

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.

Posted: Friday, July 13, 2018
Comment by: Andrew Schwarz

Dear Traffic Guy and fellow Evanstonians,
For such a progressive city, I am continually astonished by the old fashioned, out of touch opinions posted by the Traffic Guy and my fellow Citizens in regards to bikes and biking in Evanston.
First, in response to the Dodge Ave issues, the protected bike lanes are part of the modern Complete Streets Movement that are being adopted worldwide to best allow all modes of transportation, including autos, bikes, and pedestrians, to take advantage of the tax payer funded public right of way. Just because the CTA has poor procedures on the block for catching the buses, doesnít mean it is the fault of the bike lanes. Not all problems can be predicted - change is hard. Complain to the CTA to fix this and stop whining about the bikers.
In response to Kelley Elwood, yes, there are lights just for bikers because they help separate all modes of transportation. It isnít always about your convenience. Just because you didnít see a biker there, right when you are there, doesnít mean the bikers donít exist. I am often riding my bike and donít see cars around, but that doesnít mean they donít exist......Iím 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

Posted: Thursday, July 12, 2018
Comment by: Peter Gann

To the Traffic Guy re: 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.

Posted: Wednesday, July 11, 2018
Comment by: Sarah Vanderwicken

I detest the new configuration at Lake and Ridge and have changed my regular routes to avoid that intersection.

Posted: Tuesday, July 10, 2018
Comment by: Hillary Bean

Hi - Without the photos that go with the article, the Traffic Guy's answers to questions are impossible to understand. Not all of us see a hard copy of RT, and if reading online doesn't provide the same (or at least similar) content, what's the point?
Please, please post the pictures with the article. Thank you!

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