Evanston aldermen Tuesday are scheduled to approve a plan by city staff to apply for a $700,000 state grant to improve traffic signals on Ridge Avenue — the street that sees the highest number of traffic accidents in the city.

If the city receives the Highway Safety Improvement Program grant from the Illinois Department of Transportation, the money would go to fund improvements to the intersections of Ridge with Oakton, Main, Greenleaf, Dempster, Lake, Davis and Church streets, all of which are already signalized intersections.

The chart above shows the number of accidents so far this year and for the same time period the past two years on the 12 Evanston streets with the highest frequency of accidents.

The data shows a sharp decline in accidents on Ridge Avenue from 2017 to 2018 after the speed limit was reduced from 30 to 25 miles per hour, turns were restricted at some non-signalized intersections and traffic signal timing was changed at the Ridge and Lake intersection.

But it also indicates there been no significant further reduction in crashes on Ridge so far this year.

Ridge Avenue, is roughly tied with Sheridan Road to be the longest street in the city at nearly 3.5 miles, but the heaviest traffic, and largest number of accidents, happens on the two-thirds of Ridge south of Emerson Street.

Public Works Director Dave Stoneback, in a memo to aldermen, says the number of cars on Ridge averages 15,000 to 20,000 per day.

If the city receives the grant, it would need to match the state money with $160,000 of its own funds.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Ridge width is the problem, not its length

    Ridge Avenue south of Church is the only major street in Evanston with narrow 9 foot drive lanes.

    All other major streets in Evanston have drive lanes of a much greater width.

    1. Walking across Ridge at

      Walking across Ridge at unsignalized intersections feels risky as it currently is. Wouldn’t widening the lanes make crossing at unsignalized intersects even more difficult?

      1. Walking

        Hi Reuben,

        Most times of the day crossing Ridge at an unsignalized intersection is crazy!.

        I think what Dan means to suggest is reducing the traffic pattern to three lanes from four, with a center turn lane and one lane in each direction. Then each remaining lane would be wider without widening the street.

        Making the street significantly wider would require removing many trees — which would draw fierce opposition from tree lovers as well as historic preservationists, since much of Ridge runs through a local historic district.

        Traffic is so heavy on Ridge that reducing it to three lanes might create too much congestion, although a similar change on much of Green Bay Road seems to have worked out pretty well.

        — Bill 

        1. Reducing Ridge to 3 lanes from the current 4 lanes.

          Yes I advocate reducing Ridge south of Church creating 3 12-foot lanes from the current 4 9-foot lanes. Drivers who perceive greater congestion in their trans Evanston journeys should consider using McCormick or Edens Expressway (I-#94). Choosing to drive along Ridge at another time of day will also be effective in reducing congestion.

        2. At intersections, the left

          At intersections, the left lane has a car waiting to make a left turn for most of the cycle. So effectively only one lane of traffic in each direction can move through the intersection. I don’t think going with the 3 lane plan would drastically reduce the capacity of Ridge.

          I cross Ridge at South Blvd when I need to ride the L. Hopefully a 3 lane plan would include pedestrian refuge islands to make crossing easier.

          What are the typical causes of crashes on Ridge? Lots of complaints of narrow lanes. Are sideswipes common?

  2. How will Ridge be improved

    I am sure Ridge could be made much safer, but what is the plan for how they will do it?  Starting on page 256 of the city council packet are background and the actual resolution, but I did not see where it stated plans or even ideas of how intersections of Ridge will be improved.  Unless I overlooked it, I hope one of the alderman asks before initiating a process to spend $860,000, subject to grant approval.  

    1. The money can be used for physical or signal improvements

      It is unclear from the memo; but the grant can be used to do engineering improvements at the intersections as well as for signalization.

      Anyone who knows anything about traffic safety understands that the problem with Ridge is that it is poorly engineered. The street segments don’t need four lanes of through traffic and the intersections are poorly designed for safety.

      If the grant is only going to apply to intersections, then lets hope the money will go to pay for bump-outs and textured crossings.

  3. More accidents on Asbury
    Unfortunately, Ridge’s loss appears to be Asbury’s gain. Accidents on Asbury are more than double, 2018 to 2019.

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