Central Street City Projects Update

CSNA Board Member Carl Bova met with the City’s newly appointed City Engineer, Lara Biggs, and Senior Project Manager, Sat Nagar, on March 17, 2016 to discuss the status of City projects within the Central Street corridor area.

As you know, the City painstakingly filled the vaulted sidewalk on Central St, within the post office block.  There are some punchlist items remaining, including landscaping and grates.  You might have noticed the chipboard on the sidewalk.  This was one of the four projects studied by the City for the Central Street/Gren Bay Rd intersection area.

Also part of that project was the recent installation of new, much brighter lighting under the viaduct and new street lights at the now closed Poplar access to Central.  This is a huge safety improvement for motorists and pedestrians alike.

While on the subject of Poplar/Central, the City reports that the test closure of the Poplar access appears to be well-received, with no resident concerns received.  The City has decided to make the change permanent, but has no budget available to complete the permanent work at this time.  In the meantime, you will continue to see the temporary orange barriers.  The City will use its own forces to add temporary railings under the viaduct to steer pedestrians to the safe crosswalk between Beth’s Little Bake Shop and Berglund Animal Hospital.  Look for this improvement this year.

Another small streetscape improvement is slated for the north side of Central, between Green Bay and Prairie.  This block also has the stairs that prevent access for the disabled.  This project has not been designed yet, and is on hold due to lack of funding.  This streetscape work may or may not proceed with the main roadway work on Central St and along Green Bay Rd.  More about this project element below.

It appears that other project obligations in the City (Sheridan Rd and Emerson/Ridge/Green Bay) will mean that the Central Street and Green Bay Road rehabilitation project will definitely not happen until at least 2019 or 2020, depending on a successful funding effort.  The City will be looking to obtain funding from the North Shore Council of Mayors, which is an association of north shore communities that share a limited pot of federal money that is administered by IDOT.  Communities basically take turns in sharing the funds and it may take several years before this source can be tapped by Evanston.  You might recall the reconstruction of Sheridan Rd in Wilmette – this was a North Shore Council of Mayors project.  The City will also be looking at the potential for partial funding coming from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) for elements like sidewalks or access for the disabled (the “streetscape” element mentioned above) or roads related to transit.

During the public meeting for the Green Bay and Central St project over a year ago, options included lane reduction, bike lanes, and widened sidewalks along Green Bay Road.  The general consensus of residents was not favorable towards bike lanes or any lane reduction on Green Bay Road, since folks did not want to see the same congestion as found on Green Bay in Wilmette, where lanes were dropped a few years ago.  Currenty, the City foresees keeping two lanes in each direction and a very modest wider sidewalk on the west side of Green Bay.  The turn lane will remain at Central.  Between Jenks and Isabella, the roadway geometrics will be improved to smooth the transition from two lanes to one in Wilmette.

The City also indicated that the Phase I preliminary engineering contract for the Central Street Bridge rehabilitation project will be awarded at the City Council meeting on March 28, 2016. The bridge has been deteriorating for some time, and had been the subject of emergency work last year.  New beams and deck, as well as pedestrian improvements are expected.  This is another project possibly constructed in 2019 or 2020.  It will be federally funded.

While not discussed at the meeting, NU’s Ryan Field West Parking Lot and the Isabella St Bridge are two other projects within the Central Street area.  The status of both projects will be discussed at Alderman Revelle’s 7th Ward meeting on Thursday, March 31, 2016 at 7:00 pm at the Ecology Center.

Lastly, the Evanston - Wilmette Golf Course Association (EWGCA) is in the early planning phase for re-working the Canal Shores Golf Course to further challenge golfers of all ages and abilities, improve the varied ecology at the course for wildlife, and make improvements for folks who walk, jog, walk their dogs, birdwatch, or otherwise enjoy this unique urban greenway.   The EWGCA (a fully volunteer organization charged with care of the course with no public tax dollar support for its operations) has been successful in obtaining matching grants from IDNR and the USGA to help develop the plan. The plan is expected to take 6-9 months, but residents can look forward to provide input to the plan in the near future.