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City tackles congestion on Oakton

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.

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