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New stop light on Sheridan gets go ahead

Evanston aldermen Monday voted to move ahead with plans for a new traffic signal on Sheridan Road at the entrance to the Northwestern University parking lot south of Garrett Place.

They directed City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz to work out details of plans for the signal with NU — including payment for the project by the university.

Evanston aldermen Monday voted to move ahead with plans for a new traffic signal on Sheridan Road at the entrance to the Northwestern University parking lot south of Garrett Place.

They directed City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz to work out details of plans for the signal with NU — including payment for the project by the university.

Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, who has opposed the signal because of concerns among some neighbors that it would lead to increased traffic on side streets, managed to persuade aldermen to ask Bobkiewicz to gather information from the university about long-range plans for "how vehicles are going to flow in this area."

The university’s 60-year plan for campus development includes a proposal for building an 800 car underground parking garage on the open parking lot, but university officials have said it’s likely to be many years before that is built.

Although the city’s engineering staff conducted traffic studies to document the need for a signal at the intersection, resident Bob Atkins of 2005 Orrington Ave., said the city should require an independent study paid for by the university to justify the signal.

To do anything less, Atkins said, would only foster the idea that "what Northwestern wants, Northwestern gets."

But NU sophomore Ethan Merel said crossing the parking lot entrance on foot is the most dangerous part of his daily commute on campus.

"It’s chaotic and cars are often darting in between small groups of students whenever there’s a minor break," he said.

Carl Bova, of 1323 Rosalee St., said he favored moving forward with the talks, but believes the best location for the signal is at Garrett Place.

But the city’s transportation director, Paul Schneider, said officials of Garrett Theological Seminary, which has a long-term lease from NU for land east of that intersection, have said they’re not interested in having traffic from the university’s parking lot routed through what amounts to their front yard.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said she favored going with the recommendation of the city’s experts. "I tried to get my degree in traffic engineering, but didn’t get it," Rainey joked.

Schneider said that the best way to address the many conflicts between vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian traffic at the parking lot intersection was to add a new signal there.

Suzette Robinson, the city’s director of public works, noted that assuming the talks with the university about the signal are successfully concluded, the plan will still have to come back to the City Council for approval of an ordinace to actually approve installing the light.

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