Sheridan could get new stoplight

Grace Johnson and Grace Johnson

Crossing Sheridan Road on the way to class may soon be a safer task for Northwestern students, if the Evanston City Council approves a proposal to install a new traffic light by Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary.

Evanston’s transportation division is preparing to submit a proposal for the light to be installed at the parking lot entrance of Garrett, 2121 Sheridan Road, said Ronald Nayler, NU’s associate vice president for facilities management. The University began talks about the light with the city in 2005.

A traffic study conducted by the city on a section of Sheridan Road proved the light is appropriate, said Paul Schneider, director of transportation and engineering. The study consisted of a traffic observation and a count of the number of pedestrians that walk through the intersection.

‘There are a set of federal guidelines that pretty much set the standard for determining whether a traffic signal is warranted,’ Schneider said. ‘But just because it is warranted doesn’t mean you have to put it in.’

The maintenance of Sheridan Road transferred from state to city jurisdiction in December 2008. Evanston now owns the road and must approve all additions and improvements, so long as they also follow federal guidelines, Schneider said. A federal warrant must be issued for the traffic light, since federal funds are used for the long-term Sheridan Road street improvement project.

The city recently received $800,000 from Illinois for the Chicago Avenue Streetscape Improvement Project, which began in 2004 to improve the west side of Chicago Avenue from South Boulevard to Main Street. Chicago Avenue turns into Sheridan Road at the southwestern border of NU’s campus.

‘What we are looking to do to with the amount of money that was funded is really try and enhance that side of the road with lighting, binding, landscaping, any type of beautification,’ Schneider said.

Although there are federal funds for improvements along Sheridan, NU has agreed to fund the installation of the light, should the measure pass.

‘We think it’s important,’ Nayler said. ‘There’s really a critical need for it. It’s really important to move forward with the project.’

The funding of the signal by NU has always been part of the understanding, Schneider said.

‘The signal at Garrett would be providing campus access,’ he said. ‘It is a private benefit signal, and like any other benefit, we would ask that the beneficiary contribute.’

If the council approves the traffic light, the design process would start this year with construction beginning in 2011, Nayler said.

While Ald. Jane Grover (7th) hasn’t decided on the traffic light installation yet, she said it could be an important addition.

‘Any improvements for pedestrian safety are a good thing,’ she said.

Tyler Boschert, a McCormick junior, said he has had trouble walking by the Garrett parking lot but isn’t sure the traffic signal would be a positive addition to Sheridan Road.

‘The problem I would have with a traffic light is that it would cause traffic flow problems because it is so close to the Foster Street traffic light,’ Boschert said. ‘In terms of pedestrian safety though, I think it’s a good thing.’

Last February, Evanston announced a $6.6 million plan to renovate Sheridan’s existing stop lights and add new ones at the Church Street intersection, as well as at the Arts Circle Drive and the parking lot south of Garrett Place. The project, which also includes repaving and changing bus stop locations, began this past summer.

NU officials have their eyes on other traffic light additions along Sheridan Road as well, including a signal at the entrance to South Campus across from 1835 Hinman Residence Hall, 1835 Hinman Ave..

‘We still believe a signal is needed along the south entrance, but it is not as critical as the one at Garrett,’ Nayler said. [email protected]