In 1998, Wisconsin set aside money to build a new road through La Crosse. Voters overwhelmingly passed a resolution blocking the Wisconsin Dept. of Transportation’s proposed plan to build a highway connecting Hwy. 157 to La Crosse’s South Side, bisecting the marsh and turning Sixth and Seventh Streets into one-way highways. With an original cost of $80 million, the La Crosse corridor price tag has grown to more than $140 million. The north- south corridor has been debated since the 1940s and has been studied eight times.
We know that times have changed and people are driving less due to: retirement, changing work habits, and active modes in transportation. The number of miles traveled by automobile has declined for the last nine years. In addition, about one in five nineteen year olds, do not have a driver’s license. In the 1970′s this group measured 8%.
The City of La Crosse has worked hard to create a place where people want to live. They have adopted a Complete Green Streets Ordinance. They have earned a Silver Bicycle Friendly status and a Bronze Walk Friendly Status as well adopted a Bicycle Pedestrian Plan with a committee working to improve infrastructure and make connections for people to feel safe traveling by bicycle and by foot.
Yet, some elected officials are ready to pass a resolution to continue a study under a new name: the Coulee Connection Study. They are convinced that if they pass up the millions of dollars set aside for this project, it will be given away to another part of the state. They know that they are taking a gamble when they write the resolution. Even though the community doesn’t want another major road, and the Coulee Vision 2050 Plan includes multi-modal accommodations and transit, when they agree to the study, all options are on the table. That is a serious gamble to take with the life of a community and the people who live there.