(UPDATE at bottom of post)
What I'm about to describe here sounds almost like a parody of suburb street-development-by-plumbers, but this is what's on the table tonight at the Board of Public Works Meeting:
*LETTER FOR GREENDALE RELATIVE TO A JOINT APPLICATION FOR S. 51ST STREET – RAWSON AVENUE TO COLLEGE AVENUE FOR STIMULUS PROGRAM
In its convoluted way, I'm told that this item refers to the desire of Franklin and Greendale to use stimulus funds to widen the section of 51st street between Rawson and College (straddling Franklin and Greendale) to FOUR LANES.
Yes, you read that right.
Once again, the "answer" for a poorly street-planned community is to take another of the plat-level streets to gargantuan, pedestrian-killing width; a residential area roadway designed to freeway standards. Another place-killing notch in the Franklin landscape that will make this community that much more vehicle-centric - a drive-thru non-place with no appeal.
But. gosh, you can sure whiz right through.
Just what local business needs, huh? Cars WHIZZING by rather than a walkable environment that encourages lingering - and spending, and returning.
51st street badly needs shoulders and a walking/bike lane - that will require widening as well, but nothing so extreme as the four-lane variety and a much better, forward-looking use for stimulus funds. 51st does not need more vehicle lanes, and it does not need a faster speed limit.
51st Street has always been a mess. Every morning I see an older gentleman struggling to walk his small dog on the shoulder of the road, and another more elderly gentleman has to cross the road to get his mail and seems enormously grateful (and a bit surprised) when I stop and wave him across.
Many years ago, the operators of the quarry vowed to build a walking path around the quarry itself (creating a pedestrian/bike path that could get you from Drexel to Rawson), which would provide a logical connection between subdivisions south of Rawson and emerging businesses there (now including Sendik's, CVS, Andy's, and, someday, Fountains of Franklin). Instead, the city agreed to let them augment the already-funded Oak Leaf Trail, which is wonderful for persons who use it to bike or walk for the sake of biking and walking - - but the trail doesn't go anywhere! Pretty trail, no utility.
Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!
If it seems like we just worked on the Rawson-51st street area, it's because we did; the picture above was taken not even two years ago. That smooth, just-poured pavement, one supposes, will be torn up.
Also in line to be torn up: St. Paul's Church, bringing nearly to completion the stage-by-stage character-stripping of Franklin, Wisconsin. The web-captured photo below doesn't do the structure justice, of course; it's especially beautiful when you walk by on a summer night when the front doors are open, showing a peek of the candle-lit grandeur inside.
More to come. Because, while this ridiculous freeway through town may be a fait accompli, I'm not nearly done.
Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!
UPDATE: A bit of good news, perhaps: A conversation with Franklin's Mayor Thomas Taylor reveals that he personally in not in favor of a four-lane widening.
It appears that one of the city of Franklin's consultants, R.A. Smith National, Inc., initiated the conversation regarding application for stimulus funds via email (Download R.A. Smith RE- Stimulus 51st street). And, as luck would have it, GREENDALE is also a client of R.A. Smith; no sin in drumming up some work, and I think we'll see this pattern across the country.
A call to R.A. Smith reveals that, as far as they know, there is no plan currently drawn up - - save for a four-lane plan submitted some time ago by Franklin, most likely as an "ultimate expression" of the road as monster urban street. This is the "default" measure that must be avoided.
Do I believe the 4-lane option would/will be the only plan forwarded if not for some timely intercession? ABSOLUTELY.
A memo from Wisconsin State Department of Transportation Secretary Frank Busalacchi (Download Wis DOT Stimulus Memo) regarding "Second Stage Solicitation for Local Transportation Recovery Projects" indicates that plans submitted by Dec. 1st of this year are now considered "shovel-ready"; the previous short time-envelope proved too daunting for most local projects.
From the memo:
Fortunately, the final version of the Recovery Act set more reasonable timelines for local transportation projects and there is an additional opportunity for local governments to seek federal funding for local projects that meet all eligibility criteria. am writing today to lay out the process and the schedule local governments can use to submit transportation projects in the next application stage. We are committed to working closely with local governments to identify federally eligible projects and maximize the use of Recovery Act funds in Wisconsin.
In total, the Recovery Act will provide about $529 million to Wisconsin for state and local highway and bridge projects. We have determined that about 30% of this total, or about $158 million, could be made available for local roads and bridges, if sufficient eligible projects are identified and can be ready for construction. Of this total, the legislation specifies that about $38.7 million be used within the Milwaukee urbanized area and about $9.7 million be used within the Madison urbanized area. Virtually all of the remainder, or about million, is available for use throughout the rest of the state.
So now the challenge is clear: In order to pursue the forward-thinking and economically-rewarding plan of utilizing stimulus funds for creating pedestrian and bike utility and safety rather than "business as usual" rote street-widening, it's vital to get involved in the process early, as I plan to do.
On a purely economic level, we need streets that feed our businesses while making “park once, multiple stops” possible (a virtual unknown concept here). That’s what attracts investment and creates local character; that's why I will introduce an agenda item for the next Economic Development Commission meeting that seeks to make clear that "go big, go wide, go fast" is not the answer on 51st Street.
There's a better way, and we have time to explore alternatives that will serve both communities much more effectively than another four-lane monster street.