A long-shot application that could bring Evanston nearly $12 million in federal funds to rebuild Church Street with a protected bike lane was held up Monday amid worries about debt and spending priorities.

A long-shot application that could bring Evanston nearly $12 million in federal funds to rebuild Church Street with a protected bike lane was held up Monday amid worries about debt and spending priorities.

The grant application calls for rebuilding the roadway, upgrading sidewalks and other pedestrian amentites and adding a protected bike lane similar to one Chicago recently built on Kinzie Street.

The Church Street bike lane, planned in collaboration with Skokie officials, is designed to provide a safe east-west route for cyclists all the way from Evanston’s lakefront to the north-south trail that runs through Harms Woods.

Aldermen Colleen Burrus, 9th Ward, and Don Wilson, 4th Ward, questioned whether the city could afford to take on the roughly $4.6 million in local matching spending that would be required if the grant was approved.

Wilson, an avid cyclist, said that anyone who rides a bike around town notices that a lot of the roads are in deplorable condition. But he said he favors a pay-as-you-go approach that wouldn’t commit the city to taking on new debt.

Burrus called the proposal irresponsible, said it would force a reordering of street-paving priorities and claimed the the project hadn’t been part of the city’s long-term planning.

But Alderman Delores Holmes, whose 5th Ward includes part of Church Street, said the plan was not new — that a similar grant application had been submitted for it last year.

Alderman Peter Braithwaite, whose 2nd ward also includes parts of Church Street, said the West Evanston plan, which was the inspiration for the grant proposal, has been in place since 2007 and calls for a project like the one proposed.

City officials said some of the local matching money was already available from tax increment financing districts that cover portions of the route, but they conceded that some of the funds would either have to be taken from other projects or added to the city’s long-term debt.

It was unclear from the debate Monday whether any other road project might have any better chance at this time of gaining outside financial support covering more than 70 percent of its cost.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz noted that of hundreds of applications for the federal TIGER III grants last year, only two projects in Illinois were funded.

But Public Works Director Suzette Robinson said staff noticed that multi-jurisdiction proposals seemed to fare well in last year’s grant process, and she said she believes making the new application in concert with Skokie this year should improve the application’s chances.

Facing an end-of-month deadline for submitting the grant application, the aldermen voted to defer action on the proposal until their meeting next Monday.

Top: Cyclists ride on the new protected bike lane on Kinzie Street in Chicago. (Photo courtesy Chicago Department of Transportation)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Now I am angry!

    You spent all that money on the new Library, you spend all the money in the down town district, you are spending money on a new ice rink that we don't need but when it comes to making Church Street safer for the kids going to school, you start to squabble. The only two aldermen that should say anything about this plan are the two that have to deal with this Church Street mess. It's one of the worst streets in the city yet one of the most heavily traveled with the High School, foot ball field, a main street into the downtown area and a street that has too much truck traffic because of that transfer station we are stuck with.


    Stop your squabbling and get this done NOW!

  2. Fine bicyclists

    If Evanston started fining all the bicyclists who laugh at the law, disobey the law bold-faced, there would be more than enough money to take care of Church Street.

    By doing anything that would help bicyclists who break the law continually, Evanston is only re-inforcing scofflaw behavior.

    1. Even with aggressive

      Even with aggressive enforcement and fining of all the "bicycle scofflaws" (I got accosted by 4 guys on 10 speeds wearing tight pants, they threw a banana and an energy gel at me.  These bikes need to be stopped now!) and cell phone drivers, and anything else that the curmudgeons hate, Evanston could never raise the $4.6 million needed to pay for this. 

    2. Why not fine everyone….

      I live and work at different ends of Evanston and ride my bike all year round. I don't ride a road bike or wear tight fitting outfits.

      You'll find me on something retro wearing normal clothes as I commute. I agree that some bike riders out there ignore the rules of biking in the streets and can be rude, but that is not all of us.

      If you think fining bicyclists would generate much needed guns, than maybe we should start looking to other areas. How about pedestrians who cross where ever instead of marked cross walks? Cars that pull illegal maneuvers (u-turns, lack of signal, double parking, wrong way on a one way street which I see a few times a day)?

      I am sure the city has tons of ways they can fine people for wrong doings, but is that the answer? As it goes for new protected bike lanes, maybe it isn't such a bad idea. If we had them, maybe kids and adults wouldn't ride on the sidewalks in business districts.

      I'm beginning to feel that Evanston is becoming an "every person for them selves" city which could lead to it's downfall. Let's try to share the roads without the anger…

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