Some residents at a 1st Ward meeting Tuesday weren’t ready to give the green light to a new traffic signal at Church Street and Sheridan Road on Evanston’s lakefront.
They said it would be unnecessary, ugly and ineffective at maximizing pedestrian safety.
Paul Schneider, the city’s director of transportation and engineering, said the signal is intended to help lakefront visitors cross Sheridan safely.
“A number of people have seen Sheridan Road as a bit of a barrier to reach the lakefront,” Schneider added.
Several annual events, like the Ethnic Arts Festival, Starlight Concerts, and Fourth of July celebration occur in that area at the lakefront and draw large crowds of pedestrians each year, he said.
“We want to encourage people to cross at Dempster or cross at Church Street,” Schneider said.
As proposed, the traffic light would remain green for drivers on Sheridan Road until either a pedestrian pushes a button to cross or a driver from Church Street arrived.
But the proposal was pushing the buttons of some residents who came to the ward meeting.
Tom O’Brien, 51, of 210 Davis St. said that it is unrealistic to expect pedestrians to walk to Dempster Street or Church Street just to cross.
“People are going to cross at Lake, they’re going to cross at Greenwood, they’re going to cross at Davis, they’re going to cross where they are,” he said. “It seems to me that we’re putting in a solution that only works in the place where it’s put.”
But Betsy Levisay, 39, of 1733 Hinman Ave., said there needs to be a traffic light at the intersection.
“It is just treacherous,” she said. “There needs to be something.”
Some at the meeting suggested crosswalks with yield-to-pedestrian signs or stop-for-pedestrian signs would be sufficient.
But Schneider said, “From my understanding, on the East and West Coast they tend to respect” the yield signs “a lot more than here in the Midwest.”
Bruce Enenbach, 60, of 301 Clinton Place said that drivers more frequently stop for pedestrians at crosswalks in California because it’s better enforced.
“I would much rather spend money on enforcing pedestrian right of way than putting in more stoplights,” he said. “When a guy doesn’t stop, gets a $500 ticket.”
Frank Koppelman, 72, 1122 Hinman Ave. said the proposal would essentially put “a huge, unattractive facility on what’s supposed to be our parks.”
Tim Conley, 53, of 1632 Forest Place., said the city should instead place stop-for-pedestrian signs and a refuge island at the intersection.
“With those two solutions, we would have perfect safety,” he said.
Conley said he would submit a report to the city that he and other neighbors wrote detailing why the traffic light would not be the most effective solution.
The 14-page report says the intersection falls short of federal standards for traffic control devices, which call for an average of 100 pedestrians during each of any 4-hour periods or more than 190 pedestrians during any 1-hour period at an intersection.