Ridge Gets Close Attention

At the January 23 meeting of the City’s Administration and Public Works (APW) Committee, Lara Biggs, the City’s Engineering and Capital Planning Bureau Chief,  gave a presentation on the unsafe traffic conditions along the Ridge Avenue Corridor. 

Biggs reported that the Evanston stretch of Ridge from Howard to Church handles 15,000-20,000 cars daily.  The average speed is 26 mph, and 15% of drivers are going over 34 mph.  The speed limit on Ridge is currently 30 mph.  

According to her presentation, there were 154 crashes on Ridge in 2017 compared to previous years’ average of 145. Biggs asserted that their causes fall into a variety of categories.  She mentioned specifically motorists’ behaviors, lack of visibility for cars turning left, and the increased traffic on Ridge due to the Sheridan Road construction.

In response to the uptick in crashes, the COE took several actions in 2016-17 to increase safety:

  • Installed four radar signs, alerting drivers of how fast they were going and requesting that they slow down.
  • Permitted left turns from southbound Green Bay to eastbound Emerson to relieve traffic congestion on Ridge.
  • Implemented turn restrictions at the Ridge/Grove and Ridge/Greenwood intersections.
  • Increased traffic violation enforcement by the EPD.
  • Increased  “all-red” traffic signal intervals to address drivers running red lights.  
  • Posted new “caution” and “yield” signage at the Ridge/Greenleaf and Ridge/Lake intersections.
  • Trimmed tree branches obstructing traffic lights.  

Despite these efforts, crashes between Oakton and Church have not decreased.  Biggs asked the APW Committee to consider several proposals. These include reducing the speed limit to 25 mph, installing speed cameras, split-phasing the Ridge/Lake and Ridge/Greenleaf traffic signals, and addressing motorist behaviors by continued enhanced enforcement.  

 

Biggs also proposed options that would entail additional engineering analysis. The analysis would look at retiming signals along the entire corridor, left turn signals with left turn lanes on major side streets (Lake, Greenleaf, Dempster, Main, Oakton), pedestrian signal upgrades, and the installation of mast-arm signals to improve visibility.  She estimated that the cost of the analysis would be $75,000-$100,000.

Biggs spoke briefly about the benefits and impact of the various options.  She said that some of the options would result in traffic flow interruption and back-ups during peak hours.  Most notably, the report stated, “Accidents will still occur as most are due to driver behavior.” 

Following the presentation, there was a short discussion among committee members.  Ald. Tom Suffredin (6th), perhaps in response to a citizen’s comment, asked about the feasibility of changing Ridge to a three-lane configuration. Biggs stated that it could be done, although a reversible lane would probably be difficult. Ald. Cicely Fleming ( 9th) stated that she would favor mast-arm signals, agreeing that current traffic signals were difficult to see.  She also said she has received complaints from her constituents regarding too little time for pedestrians to get across Ridge. Ald. Don Wilson (4th) said that the property loss from crashes is high and would justify the cost of adding mast-arm signals.  Ald. Ann Rainey (8th) asked if there was discussion with the Preservation Commission regarding mast-arm signals, noting their opposition to installing them in the past. Biggs stated that there were no recent conversations.  It was decided that the issue would be brought to the full council in February.  They plan to look at additional data and review the options more thoroughly. 

Go Evanston has set up a meeting with COE staff to discuss the Ridge Corridor.  We believe there is an urgency to this issue--in the first weeks of 2018, there were already more reported crashes. For too long, increasing traffic flow and minimizing congestion have taken priority over everyone’s safety.  We will continue to advocate for changes that benefit all road users.  Additionally, we encourage you to contact city officials and your alderman with your concerns and feedback.   We’ll post information about the February council meeting as soon as we are notified of the date. 

The City’s full report can be found at https://www.cityofevanston.org/home/showdocument?id=35454