Thanks to the persistence of a local advocacy group, Onalaska has recently adopted a Complete Streets Policy. The policy is the result of the tireless grassroots effort. which included educating elected officials, gathering support from local businesses, the community, and the school board. This dedicated group, worked to gather a variety of stakeholders around the table to work out a policy with a checklist. During the process, the group developed a constructive relationship.
Complete Streets Policies generally require that when a municipality is building or reconstructing a road, highway or bridge, the design should accommodate people walking and bicycling, in addition to those who drive motor vehicles. This typically means streets should have sidewalks, safe crosswalks and bike lanes. The Bike Fed worked with our legislators and the Wisconsin Dept. of Transportation to pass a statewide complete streets policy in 2009, and the Federal Highway Association has a similar policy. Those policies only deal with projects that use state and federal money, and many local projects don’t fall under state or federal jurisdiction, so local complete streets policies like this one in Onalaska are very important.
The Onalaska policy passed with a vote of four supporting the policy and two opposing it. Although it is not perfect, it is a step in the right direction. We applaud the hard work of the staff, the local government, and the community for working so diligently on this process. With the solid foundation in place between the advocacy group, the staff, and the community, Onalaska is in the position to begin looking at road projects for all road users.