Evanston public works officials Wednesday night explained their plan to try to relieve traffic congestion on Oakton Street west of Dodge Avenue at a community meeting at the Levy Center.

Evanston public works officials Wednesday night explained their plan to try to relieve traffic congestion on Oakton Street west of Dodge Avenue at a community meeting at the Levy Center.

The plan calls for widening the road by four feet just west of the Dodge Avenue intersection to make room for a right turn lane for eastbound traffic.

It would take one foot from the north side of the intersection at the gas station, and three feet from the south side at Dawes Elementary School.

In addition, parking would be banned Monday through Friday on the south side of Oakton from Grey Avenue to Dodge, eliminating 17 parking spaces adjacent to James Park.

Traffic Engineer Paul Schneider said that’s designed to move cars that want to turn right at Dodge out of the way of drivers who plan to continue east on Oakton.

“The goal is to let vehicles get through and not stack up all the way back to the Home Depot” west of Hartrey, Schneider said.

Engineer Rajeev Dahal said traffic studies show that about 65 percent of eastbound drivers at the intersection continue east on Oakton, while 25 percent turn right to go south and the remaining 10 percent make a left turn to go north on Dodge.

Schneider said the plan also calls for upgrading the pedestrian crosswalk at Grey.

He said the state senate has just approved a bill passed by the house last fall that will let communities post signs requiring drivers to stop for pedestrians in a crosswalk rather than just yield, and the city plans to install such a sign in the middle of that crosswalk as well as at several others in town now posted with yield signs.

He said the staff considered making changes to the crossing a block west at Hartrey, but didn’t believe it would be as safe.

He noted that the city has an agreement with Home Depot to permit the shopping center’s parking lot to be used for overflow parking from James Park and said he planned to work with the youth sports teams that use the park to spread the word about that and encourage their players to cross from the parking lot to the park at the traffic light in front of the recycling center.

He said he’s also talking with officials in the city’s parks department about the possibility of adding more parking in James Park, including possibly permitting diagonal parking along the extension of Mulford Street in the park that abuts the CTA Yellow Line tracks.

The two dozen residents at the meeting seemed split about the plan, with one man saying the city needed to widen Oakton to make it a “six lane road” similar to Oakton Street in Skokie, while a woman said she opposed any changes that would reduce green space or take out trees.

Robert Muno of 1729 Oakton st. said he opposed the idea of creating the right turn lane, saying it would only benefit Chicago residents.

But Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, who co-chaired the session with Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, disputed that claim, saying she uses that route to get to her own house every day.

Schneider said the paving work on Oakton is designed to be coordinated with sewer work scheduled for the street this year and that he hopes to present plans for the road work to the City Council on Monday during a discussion of the city’s capital improvement plan.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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12 Comments

  1. Well then… if Ann Rainey is using the route to get home…
    Well then… if Ann Rainey is using the route to get home… by all means the residents that were at last nights meeting and also at the meeting that took place over a year ago who are opposed to the plan (there were more than 30 at the previous meeting – the vast majority opposed to this plan) should all step down. Sure, we understand, losing part of James Park for additional parking that is going to be added after it has already been cut up for multiple sports fields and the Levy Center should be no big deal. Perhaps we should rename it James PARKING. And losing a chunk of easement eliminates additional green space as ALL Evanston residents foot the bill to get people moving more quickly into Chicago. James Park is heavily used by residents/children. Adding this lane is just going to allow traffic that is already driving much faster than the city speed limit, to have a clear and unubstructed path. Woe to us for not caring that this street has THREE schools, a park and Chute playground attended/used heavily by our young children. That we are not considering their safety is unbelieveable. Yes – by all means, lets get Ann home faster when she makes her right turn at Oakton/Dodge and cuts over to Howard.

  2. Oakton entrance to James
    An Oakton entrance to James – or even a Oakton drop off would ease the situation. This entrance could be behind the recycling center and drop kids off at James 1 or 2. Does anyone know if that’s been considered?

  3. land grab
    I agree with your point about pushing traffic closer to the school. Many schools in Evanston are already close enough to main arteries. Why take away even more land as a buffer.

    I wonder if this solution would be allowed near schools in the Northwest areas of Evanston?

  4. Let’s do it!
    This sounds like a great idea, something actually useful that the city could and should be doing. Let’s make it happen. I take Oakton to get home every day.

  5. view from a bike
    As someone who lived in the area for almost 20 years and had kids that went to Chute, how well I know the traffic congestion on Oakton, but it never had any impact on me because I ride a bike.

    Recently I attended a week-long event at the Weber Center in Skokie (Church and Gross Point Road). All attendees were from Evanston and lived closer to Weber than the four miles I rode in 20 minutes. I arrived each day by bike, everyone else (14 people) drove a car. The parking lot was well filled, the bike rack had two bikes, one of them mine.

    It seems any sacrifice will be made (more lanes, widening, more lights, more stop signs, etc.) before we reconsider the norm of a single person moving around town in a multi-ton metal box.

    Evanston is great to bike with loads of quiet residential streets and every inch of the town as well as the neighboring towns of Wilmette and Skokie within a few minutes ride time. We now have bike lanes and new racks. All we lack are the people on bikes to use them.

    1. Bike infrastructure needs improvement
      I’m a cyclist too and it struck me that accommodation of bikes is not even being considered here.

      Our east-west bike connections are HORRIBLE in the south end of town. This stretch of Oakton, for example has no bike lanes. How are you supposed to reach the bike path west of the canal if Oakton, Main, Dempster all are void of bike lanes?

      Going north-south is relatively easy in Evanston since there are plenty of side streets that make key connections and the main thoroughfares of Dodge, Chicago, Asbury have lanes in many parts.

      The east-west connection needs to be tackled. If they are going to “improve” Oakton, it needs bike lanes.

    2. A. Riding a bike is far more
      A. Riding a bike is far more dangerous than driving a car.
      B. For most people, it is impractical to ride a bike to and from their destination.
      C. Your suggestion is only valid in the months of (roughly) Marhch to September.

      Don’t forget the economic impact this has on our city. It is a deterant to have to drive through these clogged arteries. Many of the roads leading into Evanston have this issue.

      1. Bikes
        A. Bikes only problem is drivers who won’t share the road and try to come as close to a biker as they can and don’t obey the laws.

        B. Under five miles each way, a bike is always practical.

        C. Bikes can be used year round. I’ve used one year round for 20 years with only a few days where the snow or ice were too bad.

        If people are serious about the enviornment, they will keep their cars at home and bike, walk or use CTA. City employees should live in Evanston anyway and always be able to get to work via bikes, walking or CTA.

        1. Do What Ya Like
          Like driving your car – then do it.

          Like driving your SUV – then do it.

          Like riding your bike – then do it.

          Do what ya like regardless of opinions about the environment, safety, etc. Just do what ya like, it’s your choice.

  6. Please do not widen!
    I only see widening the street as a means to add more traffic. There is a finite number of cars that can travel on Oakton, don’t encourage more drivers on the street. There is a traffic jam from 5:30-6:00pm. Let the drivers deal with it or find alternatives.

    Do not add a turn lane and decrease the amount of land right next to a school and the space between the sidewalk and cars. That is just plain dangerous.

    It was a great thing 2-3 years ago, when you could finally walk or ride your bike from Dodge to McCormick on sidewalks. Please do not take this away.

    IT IS A PARK! not an expressway.

  7. Wow
    I live one block off of Oakton and it is a royal pain getting home. I work 30 miles away (so much for your bike argument) and return home during this rush. I would benefit from this change. Most of my neighbors would benefit from this change. Give up on the “only benefiting Chicago” angle. It just makes you look silly.

    I have been pushing for signs at the Grey crossing (like those found in Skokie) stating the state law requiring yielding to pedestrians in the crosswalk, but have been turned away at every step. I am encouraged to hear that it may actually happen now.

    And please stop the whining about “de-greening” the park. It’s 4 feet of mostly weeds & dirt/gravel that will be giving way to the turn lane. If it means I get home a little faster to see my family, I’m all for it.

  8. my view
    hi, having navigated this for years, things seemed to get much worse when one of the two eastbound lanes on Oakton became left turn only. Since there aren’t that many people turning left on Dodge, it “wastes” a good lane and causes the bottleneck. If that left turn only lane signs are removed, I think the problem will be solved.

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