The Common Council meets tonight at 6:30 at the monumental Franklin Law Enforcement Center.
On February 27th, the Wisconsin DOT sent a memo to Franklin outlining new deadlines for American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) stimulus fund applications.
There were no emergency meetings of committees and boards of which I'm aware. (The Economic Development Commission, in fact, canceled our 2/23/09 meeting for reasons to which I'm not privy).
On March 2nd, one of the city's construction consultants, R.A. Smith, sent an email to Franklin's city engineers:
John & Ron,
On behalf of the Village of Greendale, we would like to know if the City of Franklin has interest in pursuing Round 2 stimulus funding for the S. 51st St. project both municipalities discussed last year?
We have attached a map of the segment and the WDOT round 2 stimulus letter for your review.
That was all we needed, apparently. On March 10th the Board of Public Works recommended pursuing the project. It does not specify a four-lane urban highway, but that is the only cross-section available at this point - - reason enough to be concerned.
So the list of possible stimulus funded projects now reads like this:
a) W. Puetz Road (S. Street to St. Martins Road)
b) S. Street (Puetz Road to Drexel Avenue)
c) S. 51st Street (North of Rawson Avenue to College Avenue in Greendale)
d) Additional Project
Did I miss the brainstorming session that came up with these projects? Or, do we determine projects based on the recommendation of contractors who can bill us for the project they suggest?
We are on the cusp of another missed opportunity to rise above mediocrity and more "entropy made visible."
Franklin's streets and roads - both the pavement AND the network - are in desperate need of rehabilitation
The city of Franklin almost flamboyantly thumbs its nose at the idea of traveling from place to place without a vehicle. Residential roads are built wide and curvilinear for maximum speed - kids and bikes be damned.
Nearby is still far away.
There are neighborhoods close enough to Franklin High School to be illuminated by the sports field's lights - yet the residents of those houses have no way to walk or bike to the high school! Is it any wonder that so many vehicles are on the road at the beginning and end of school days? That's an embarrassment.
Pleasant View Elementary remains accessible by a single thin road with not so much as a shoulder to retreat to if you should attempt to walk or bike to the school. Another embarrassment.
In fact, the County Sheriff has determined that all of Franklin School District is in an unusually hazardous transportation area. Therefor, all students in the district are entitled to bus transportation.
Subdivisions that get to hear the trucks loading and unloading at the Sendik's on 51st and Rawson have no access to it via foot or bicycle, which would make their proximity a pretty spectacular amenity.
And that's all right with us? We're not going to bother to address any of that with stimulus funds?
Franklin seems content to ignore opportunities to increase connectivity. I have a list of almost 600 Wisconsin bicycle and pedestrian projects funded or co-funded by the federal government from 1993 to 2007. FRANKLIN DOES NOT APPEAR ON THE LIST AT ALL.
Not. Even. Once.
What happened to Complete Streets?
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding should not be used to expand a system of roads that do not provide safe travel for people who are walking or bicycling. Too many Franklin streets are designed to be wide and fast, without sufficient sidewalks, crosswalks or bicycle lanes. We, in fact, CREATE traffic with huge roads and no alternative.
Little or no consideration has been given for the safety of older people, children, or people with disabilities. These incomplete streets are dangerous and create barriers for people to get to jobs, school, the doctor, and fully participate in civic life.
Basically, Franklin's system of ever-widening collector streets without regard to interior grid roads - a blatant concession to subdivision developers - does nothing but concentrate and increase traffic, create noise, and make it impossible to travel from place to place without firing up an internal combustion engine.
This is not an environment that encourages businesses to move in and take root. It is not an environment friendly to commercial enterprises that benefit from the ability to linger (book store, coffee shops, etc.).
So, tonight, the Common Council will vote on a hastily thrown-together package of road projects - - unless they dare to rise above and call for further discussion IMMEDIATELY to better maximize the opportunity presented by stimulus funds.
And I mean meetings that start TOMORROW and incorporate input from various interested parties and persons who have expertise beyond TRAFFIC ENGINEERING.
Ah, "traffic engineering." Evidently, the pure basis for all growth in Franklin.
Keep the following excerpt from the book SUBURBAN NATION in mind at tonight's meeting when engineers cite "traffic analysis" and "throughput forecasting":
Those who are skeptical of the need for a fundamental reconsideration of transportation planning should take note of something we experienced a few years ago. In a large working session on the design of Playa Vista, an urban infill project in Los Angeles, the traffic engineer was presenting a report of current and projected congestion around the development. From our seat by the window, we had an unobstructed rush-hour view of a street he had diagnosed as highly congested and in need of widening. Why, then, was traffic flowing smoothly, with hardly any stacking at the traffic light? When we asked, the traffic engineer offered an answer that should be recorded permanently in the annals of the profession: "The computer model that we use does not necessarily bear any relationship to reality."
So, let us hope they spare us their "projected traffic" studies. (More on concepts like INDUCED TRAFFIC and LATENT DEMAND in later postings.)
More to come ...