If you drive down Oakton Street in Evanston these days a sign may nag you about your speed.

Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, failed again this week to persuade other City Council members to cut the speed limit on Oakton to 20 miles an hour, but city staff, trying to stave off what they fear would be an unenforceable rule change, have come up with alternative measures.

Those include the new illuminated sign with a built in radar gun that measures how fast drivers are going, displays their speed, and — if they’re going faster than 25 miles an hour — also flashes a warning to “slow down.”

Public Works Director Suzette Robinson said the sign, which can temporarily be attached to light poles around town, will be posted on Oakton at least six times a year.

The sign now faces eastbound traffic at the Chute Middle School playground. At that point the speed limit is 30 miles an hour much of the time, but 20 miles an hour “on school days when children are present.”

Police Chief Richard Eddington has promised to add monitoring speeders and violations of the truck weight limit on Oakton to the responsibilities of a a new problem solving officer to be named for the ward.

And Robinson said she’d work to ensure that resurfacing of Oakton is included in the city’s new five year street paving plan. Some residents along Oakton have claimed that speeding trucks on the worn surface of the street have caused walls to crack in their houses.

Related story

Oakton speed limit cut proposed

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Speed limit change should be a no-brainer

    There is a lot of evidence pointing to greater safety outcomes with reduced speed limits.  Cities all over the world are reducing speed limits to improve walkability and biking with no adverse impacts on congestion.

    There is a real active movement in Great Britain doing work on this issue, 20's Plenty:

    There are three schools on that stretch of Oakton. 

    I don't understand the staff's position. They are supposed to work for the citizens.  What is the logic that changing the speed limit would be "an uneforcable rule change"?  Why is 20mph any less enforcable than the current speed limit?

  2. En masse ticketing

    Several decades ago, I got caught in a mass ticketing event on Oakton during the first week of school. I was ticketed and fined for going 32 miles per hour, as were all the other cars going through the same sequence of lights. Is this not possible anymore?

  3. Less enforceable

    Although my knowledge is limited, I think the limit would be unenforceable because a change in speed limit requires a traffic study and then the limit is set at a certain percentage of average traffic speed (75% I think).  That would make it very unlikely for the limit to be reset anywhere near 20 and, in theory, a study could determine that it should go up to 35.

    The speed limit is already a "school zone" 20 during heavy traffic times (in my experience the police are a lot more vigilant and less leniant in school zones – rightfully so) along most of Oakton. 

    This exercise seems like a total waste of time that could be spent on more important things.  I see no reason why the limit on Oakton should be lower than the limit on my residential street (25 mph).  A 30 mph limit seems appropriate to me.  I guess alderman Burrus has nothing better to do with her time.

    1. Your knowledge is limited

      Sorry, pal.  Your knowledge is limited.  The city can change it to 20 without a traffic study.

      Many people who have kids who go to the schools in the area or who simply want to walk in the neighborhood would strongly disagree with the idea that promoting safety is "a total waste of time."

      Kudos to Ald Burrus for trying to make the city more livable.

      1. Your link..

        Your link contains a lot of info, none of which would justify lowering the speed limit to 20.  What would be the basis, according to the statute you link to, to lower the limit?  "Claims" of property damage isn't on the list and neither is "kowtowing by elected officials to perpetually whining residents." 

        1. There is no basis

          What would be the basis, according to the statute you link to, to lower the limit?

          The city doesn't need a "basis."  Your initial comment claimed that "a change in speed limit requires a traffic study."  

          That simply isn't the case as the statute lays out.  The statute says is that the city can change it to 20mph.

          If a majority of the council votes for it, it becomes law.  That is the only requirement.

  4. Why the use of the word “claim” here?

    With regard to property damage that residents are sustaining, why do you say we are "claiming" damage.  Almost 50 residents have reported damage to their homes due to bouncing and shaking from the deteriorating street.  Cracked walls, cracked WINDOWS, chimney damage, pictures rattling, dishes shaking in cabinets and even more complaints from those of us who live here.  We aren't claiming to have damage, we are stating fact.  It IS happening due to speeding traffic and the horrible condition of the street – yes, mostly trucks, but also when large groups of vehicles travel a high rates of speed in front of our homes.  All we are asking for is to slow traffic so that we can stop sustaining damage.  With three schools in the immediate area, this isn't such a difficult thing to ask for.  As a matter of fact, ALL residents on artery streets complain about massive speeding.  Why not treat everyone in the city alike and lower the speed limit to 25 for everyone?  Side street residents are protected 10 ways to Sunday with lower speed limits, traffic circles and speed bumps.  All we are asking for is a lower speed limit and our neighbors to help us out a bit by slowing down.  Evanston isn't so large that going a little bit slower will be massively impactful on everyone's commute.

    Speaking of side-street residents, the shaking is so bad on Oakton, that a lot of residents that live on side streets just off of it are getting jolted out of bed as well.  AND side street residents complain about how difficult it is to get out of their street onto Oakton safely.  Lowering the speed limit would help everyone out and bring safety back too.

    Our Traffic people aren't interested in helping residents.  They only want to get cars through here as fast as possible.  Do you want your kid walking to school on this street?  One lady said she had cars have accidents and drive right on her easement.  That isn't safe for anyone walking.

    1. Claim it is

      Hi, Oakton resident,

      We use "claim" because, at least at the City Council meetings I've attended, no one has offered any proof — no one has presented any dated before and after pictures … no one has presented testimony from structural engineers … no one has offered anything beyond their own assertion that they've had damage.

      And, as someone who has lived in several older houses, I know that sometimes cracks just happen. The fact that there's a crack doesn't necessarily mean vibrations from traffic caused it.

      — Bill


    2. Oakton Traffic

      Does anyone actually look at the area they are buying houses before they buy? Seems that if I buy a house on a busy street I would expect traffic …. This reminds me of the people that live around Ryan Field complaning about the issues that come with living by a stadium. 

      1. Oakton Changes in Traffic Patterns

        Many of us who live on Oakton have lived here 10 and 20 years or more.  The huge increase in the amount of traffic and the use of the street by trucks only began about 5 years ago.  When we began to see the changes, we started putting in calls to our Traffic Division and requesting traffic smoothing assistance.  That they did not get off of their behinds until Coleen Burrus came aboard and started fighting on our behalf is at the root of the issue. 

        Our Traffic Division tells us they've done a study on traffic speed and the average speed is 33 MPH on our street where the speed limit is 20 MPH On School Days When Children Are Present.  That figure shows that there are a number of vehicles going well above the speed limit during school hours to have an average that is 33!

        Does anyone think it acceptable that drivers go between 30 and 38 MPH when school is in session on a street with THREE schools for young children in a 4 block area?  For that matter, the "On School Days When Children Are Present" school zone is outdated.  James Park, Chute Playfield and Oakton Elementary are all venues that are used for children's sporting practice and games on a regular basis…. including weekends and holidays.  The city is also considering renting the Recycling Center to a youth sports outfit, which will be a year-round use for children.  We protect our high school children with mandatory school zones between set hours Monday through Sunday.  No one is going to convince me our young children are more in tune with traffic than the kids in our high school to the point they don't need similar protections. 

        It is actually my belief that all residents on artery streets are suffering through similar situations.  I've talked to people who live on Ridge who complain of serious speeding.  The last time I traveled down Ridge, I saw what these residents are referring to.  If you travel the speed limit on Ridge, other vehicles will pass you at speeds that make you think you are standing still.  When did it become acceptable to travel up to 5/10/15 MPH over a posted speed limit?  ALL Evanston residents should be protected from scofflaw drivers, not just side street residents.  When I drive through North Evanston, I see evidence of all types of protections for residents.  For instance, on Ridge between Emerson and Central, there are three red lights at side street locations.  Lake Street between Asbury and Dodge has three STOP signs and there are so many more examples.  West Central Street has undergone many changes to smooth and slow traffic.  We believe South Evanston residents should have similar protections against traffic speeding through ALL of our streets.  Lower the speed limit or add a few red lights or STOP signs – this city isn't so large that it would add more than 3 minutes to someone's travel through town. 

        Perhaps, if you are reading this note you will take the initiative, keeping your Evanston neighbors' safety in mind, and drive the actual speed limit on all of our artery streets.  We would appreciate any assistance you are able to offer in this endeavor.  Statistically, there has been a dramatic increase in the amount of vehicles using our streets in recent years and collectively, we need to change how we think about traffic and appropriate speeds.  Also, Evanston is toting the pedestrian friendly mantra – a good sound bite for which we'd like to see some action undertaken for all residents.

  5. Does the speed sign keep data?

    It seems like the radar speed indicating sign might be useful in keeping data on speeds sensed so it could be used as an indicator of speeding trouble spots. Naturally, most drivers will slow when they see the sign but that factor would be involved anywhere the sign is placed and shouldn't rule out its use as a useful speed recorder.

  6. School Speed Zones and vibrations

    Under Illinois law, a school speed zone requires that you post a sign that says, "Speed Limit 20 MPH On School Days When Children Are Present".

    This means that the speed limit is 20 MPH on school days, Monday  through Friday, when children are visible, between 7 am – 5 pm. On Oakton, the speed limit is 30 MPH if children are not visible between 7 am – 4 pm. If cars are doing 30 MPH during the day, most of the time, it is legal.
    If you change the speed limit on Oakton to 20 MPH, like ETHS, it will no longer be a school speed zone. Violating the speed limit in a school speed zone requires a traffic court appearance. A conviction results in a minimum fine of $ 200 with $ 50 going to the school district, plus court costs. Traffic school is not an option.

    A non-school zone speeding conviction is an every day speeding ticket.
    Be careful what you wish for.

    Oakton street vibrations –

    35 years ago, I lived on Oakton St. for about 10 years. During the 1st 4 years people complained about vibrations constantly. This usually occurred when buses or trucks hit a sewer cover, pothole, or uneven surface. Our streets department said that the primary problem was the way the sewers and street were built. Because of this, heavy trucks were not allowed on Oakton but buses were given a pass.

    During the 5th year, they resurfaced the street. This greatly improved the problem.

    And who hasn't seen the following government planning problem over and over.

    During the 6th year, they ripped up Oakton to do sewer and curb work and the problem got worse.
    Anyway, the only way to permanently fix Oakton is a complete re-build and this is unlikely to happen.

  7. Oakton Street Vibration or Noise?

    I drove down Oakton to see the condition of the street,  about 1/2 mile appears to be in potential need of resurfacing. Resurfacing not rebuilding.  There are streets in far worst conditon through out Evanston.

    The City spent money over five years ago to pay a consultant to look at streets throughout the City,anyone know how Oakton rated?  Ofcourse they just pay a consultant again, another $200,000 ( I believe ) for another study

    Spending 1.7 million dollars as Alderperson Burrus is asking. appears too high.

    The issue of Vibration is interesting, to prove the cause and the engineering analysis is quite complex.  Some years back the city was putting a large collector tunnel close to my house.  I asked to review the engineering and soil report.   It noted my home would be in an effective area of potential settling due to the tunneling work.

    I noted this to the City officials, they had a company come out and photograph the interior of my house. Nothing evea come of the work. Some cracking may have occurred since the project, but to link it to the project would be difficult to prove at best.  Only if a major problem had occurred would there have been a strong link. The science of soil and vibration is quite complex, claiming that events are occurring would be difficult to prove.

    Yes residents homes are feeling the vibration of the trucks on Oakton they are also feeling the vibrations from other sources. The noise of the man holes going up and down are vibrations but there effects on a home would clearly not cause cracking, but may keep the residents awake.

    Oakton street for a 1/2 miles needs to be resurfaced as part of  a plan, not to satisfy Alderperson Burrus needs, Given the City's  increasing bad debt picture many other streets clear take priority of Oakton.

    1. Street vibrations


      One problem that we faced on Dempster was that the street concrete base is poured in sections and these sections are "joined" by rebar. These supposedley tie these plates together. Due to the effects of corrosion or poor material, the rebars eventually break. When this happens, you now have a large slab of concrete that is set into vibration whenever a large heavy truck passes over it. Nearby houses do feel the vibration.  Dempster is a main artery, side streets do not have the same specs, and when construction trucks take detours down these side streets they accelerate the decay and nearby houses suffer.

      Our streets are third world.

Leave a comment
The goal of our comment policy is to make the comments section a vibrant yet civil space. Treat each other with respect — even the people you disagree with. Whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *