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home : columns August 18, 2017

4/5/2017 5:02:00 PM
The Traffic Guy hears ...
Rusting, deteriorating and unsightly, these viaducts have become a hallmark of Evanston’s commuter-rail infrastructure. Photo by Ann Bennett Lander
Rusting, deteriorating and unsightly, these viaducts have become a hallmark of Evanston’s commuter-rail infrastructure.
Photo by Ann Bennett Lander

... that disassembly of the crane at 1571 Maple Ave. will continue through April 7. Drivers will see lane reductions on westbound Davis, and the sidewalk on the south side of Davis from Maple to Benson will be partially blocked, but will remain open for business access.
Additionally, through April 15, the sidewalk on the south side of Davis, from 922 Davis St. east to Elmwood Avenue, will be closed for the replacement of the sidewalk and curb. Access to all businesses will remain open. The Maple Avenue crosswalk and the sidewalk on the north side of Davis Street will be open at all times. Could it be that Elmwood north
of Grove will be open again soon?

... that the Dog Beach is now open – in its original location north of the Church Street boat ramp. Dog owners can register with the City and let their doggies enjoy the generally pristine lake water. The City advises, “With the exception of the dog beach and Pooch Park, dogs must be leashed in public and are not allowed to run loose in public parks.”

… that the City will purchase two Brunswick watercrafts (boats?) from Brunswick Commercial & Government Products for the Parks, Recreation & Community Services Department and seven Harley-Davidson motorcycles for the Police Department’s traffic guys. Has anyone asked whether Harley-Davidson is related to Harley Clarke?

... that a new peregrine falcon has come to the library ledge, where Nona and Squawker have nested for years. (See Betsy’s Bird’s Book Bird.)

… that, speaking of birds: Walkers, beware: The red-wing blackbirds are back already. TG and others have heard stories of people strolling unaware beneath the birds’ nests – or where they are planning to nest – and being dive-bombed.

… that (drumroll, please) renovation work on Fountain Square began this week. The plaza, which, as everyone knows, is not a square, was last redone in 1976, for the country’s bicentennial. One hundred years before that, “Evanston residents chose the three-tiered fountain design to express their patriotism and to celebrate the centennial of the Declaration of Independence by dedicating a new monument in the center of Evanston.” (Architect Ellen Galland in the RoundTable’s fall 2015 magazine). Now, here is a little quiz for RT readers: 1) What was the original name of Fountain Square? 2) Is the fountain in the Merrick Rose Garden the original 1876 one or a replica?

... This newest iteration will include “a new zero-depth decorative fountain, veterans memorial, lighting, street furniture, and landscaping; a new pedestrian plaza space south of Davis Street, between Orrington and Sherman avenues, including new paving, lighting, street furniture, and landscaping; new street lighting in the 1500 block of Sherman Avenue; new traffic signals at the Sherman/Davis intersection.” There will be four phases to the work, and it may be completed by December. That completion date, however, will likely necessitate the relocation of Memorial Day and Veterans Day observances – possibly
to Patriot’s Park.

… that the section of Foster between Hartrey and Emerson has received the honorary title “Rev. Zollie Webb Way.” Rev. Webb worked for the City for 25 years and is now the Community Outreach Coordinator in the Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Services. As a minister, he organized and developed a community choir that raised funds annually to help support the Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment program. As a resident and a minister, he is National Youth Director of the National Baptist Convention USA and has been a foster parent to more than 50 kids.

… that folks at have been watching the events around the Keystone XL pipeline.  GasBuddy Senior U.S. Petroleum Analyst Patrick DeHaan noted:  “While the impact on gasoline prices may not be immediately known or felt, the pipeline will allow more U.S. refiners to process Canadian crude oil and reduce reliance on foreign supply, while helping Canadians secure their energy future. It may also bring a side effect of causing the typically discounted Canadian crude oil prices to rise, as more refiners and customers seek out Canadian crude oil. The impact may be felt most by refiners that already process a significant portion of such crude oil, as the low price of Canadian oil is likely to rise. Certainly, this move is a positive one for Canadian oil interests, as it will likely boost the value of the Canadian dollar while bringing more jobs to the energy sector there. … U.S. motorists are unlikely to feel an immediate impact at the pump as a result, but with the new possibilities the pipeline brings, there is no guarantee that there won’t be future impacts to fuel prices.”

… that, speaking of Canada, EarthSky reports that the Barnes Ice Cap, “the last remaining piece of the Laurentide Ice Sheets that once blanketed Canada and much of the northern United States, is doomed to disappear in the next several centuries. That’s according to a new study published online on March 20 in the peer-reviewed journal Geophysical Research Letters.” The Barnes Ice Cap is the size of Delaware, sitting on Baffin Island. EarthSky says the ice cap “is still 1,640 feet thick, but, scientists say, it’s melting at a rapid pace. Its impending disappearance, they say, is driven by increased greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere that have elevated Arctic temperatures.” The ice cap would last only another 300 years “under business-as-usual greenhouse gas emissions.”

From our readers: TG: I have been looking at this mess of a viaduct for 20 years – it’s very depressing. [See photo above.] I’ll vote for whoever will actually do something about it. I contacted our alderman, Judy Fiske, a few years ago, and also City Hall. All I got was the runaround. You would think in a “nice” town like Evanston, with a thriving arts community, someone would step up and try and beautify this horrid state of affairs. I have to say that of all the towns and countries that I have been in I have never seen disgusting infrastructure like this.  – Ann Bennett Lander

From TG: Ms. Lander, thank you for the photo. It looks like this may be the CTA viaduct at Lincoln and Ridge, and, TG concedes it seems to be irreversibly dilapidated. TG thinks, though, that there may be some competition for this “disgusting infrastructure,” even right here in Evanston. More precisely, though, Transportation and Mobility Coordinator Katherine Knapp provided this information on the viaducts in Evanston: “Union Pacific and the CTA own and are responsible for maintaining all the viaducts that service their respective lines. The CTA recently replaced three of their viaducts in 2012 and 2013. New viaducts were constructed at Grove, Dempster, and Greenleaf at a project cost of over $10 million. Additionally, Union Pacific has been conducting on-going viaduct repair work following the end of the freeze-thaw cycle in the spring. Recently, Union Pacific conducted concrete repair and painting work at Davis in 2016.”

The Traffic Guy thinks …
… that it would be nice if everyone chipped in to clean up the community, even those who cannot participate on April 22.

… that going curbless on Sherman Avenue (between Church and Davis) brings on a whole new way of thinking for walkers and riders. Where will rollerbladers, skateboarders, scooterers (scooterists?), bicyclists, and the like go – since there will be no discernible sidewalk. Can pedestrians rule? How about those in strollers and wheelchairs? This little block will offer a real chance for expansive road-sharing. Until then, don’t forget the businesses in the Fountain Square area (should we just shorten that to “Fountain Squarea”?) that may be affected by construction. They will remain open and be glad for continued business.

Happy Passover and Happy Easter to all.

Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, April 10, 2017
Comment by: Debbie Hillman

Re: Metra wall on 1200 block Sherman. On Feb. 21, 2017, I called Evanston's 311 to let them know about a piece of concrete that fell as I was riding by on my bicycle at night (in the dark). The incident happened on a Saturday (Feb. 18, 2017). The chunk did not hit me, or my bike, or my cart. But the sound of it falling onto the asphalt was loud, from which I would guess that the chunk was at least fist-sized. (There are larger chunks all along the wall on this block, all of which have fallen since Fall 2015 when the street was repaved.)

On March 13, I got an email from 311 saying that "Union Pacific will be visiting the wall within the next two weeks to address and remove any loose concrete." One of my neighbors saw a UP inspector at the wall on March 30.
Today (April 10), I got another email from 311 (Kathleen Knapp): "City staff is continuing to work with the property owner, Union Pacific, to address the request."

I have kept my neighborhood listserv (Nichols Neighbors) apprised of the progress, but since Traffic Guy is documenting other sites of infrastructure deterioration (danger ??), I thought I'd put this location under the Traffic Guy's eye.

Posted: Thursday, April 6, 2017
Comment by: Ann Lander

Hi traffic guy thanks for printing my letter re the horrible viaduct. My other pics were of the wall underneath it. I agree that all the infrastructure here is a big fat mess , When I drive under the viaduct at Green Bay and Emerson I can't believe the old rag hanging off there. I'm sure that the walls at least could be painted one color in lieu of a mural or a mosaic. Maybe not the color of mud?Ann Lander.

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