The National Transportation Operations Coalition says Evanston rates a “C” for the performance of its traffic signals in reducing traffic congestion and improving fuel efficiency and air quality.

That may not sound good, but wait, city officials say, the average grade across the nation was a “D.”

And they’re promising still better results next year.

John Burke, the city’s transportation director, says the scores, issued this week in Washington, are based on data from last year, and this year the city has upgraded a quarter of its just over 100 signalized intersections.

“The city is rapidly upgrading antiquated signal systems to state-of-the-art, interconnected, demand-responsive systems,” Mr. Burke said.

Public Works Director David Jennings says the city has leveraged federal state and private funds to improve its traffic lights.

This year’s signal work on Ridge Avenue received $3 million in federal clean air funds, Mr. Jennings said, and next year the city will use a $200,000 contribution from Evanston Northwestern Healthcare to install new interconnected traffic signals on Central Street at Ridge and Girard avenues.

The transportation coalition says nationwide studies show the benefits of investments in signal timing — including lowered fuel useage, improved air quality and shorter commute times — outweigh the costs by 40 to 1 or better.

NTOC surveyed localities across the United States in the fall of 2006. A total of 417 agencies in 47 states responded. The survey assessment and grading is based on factors including signal equipment, timing practices, monitoring and maintenance.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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