Your advocacy is needed

The following is a guest post from Bike Fed member and Fitchburg Alder, Steve Arnold:

You are probably aware that a new bridge, under construction over McKee Rd (CTH PD) just east of Verona Rd, will carry the Military Ridge State Trail north to the “bicycle interchange”, connecting to the Southwest Path, Cannonball Path, Capital City State Trail, and Badger State Trail. The bridge is being built by WisDOT as part of the Verona Road project. Paving of the Cannonball Path and realignment of the Military Ridge State Trail were delayed to coordinate with the completion of the bridge this year.

What you may not know is that because of a dispute between two businesses adjacent to the bridge, this critical safety measure and transportation link may be compromised and/or delayed. The short version of the story is that WisDOT asked for additional land from General Beverage, which in turn is asking the south access path (connecting to the eastbound bike land on McKee Rd) be redesigned and moved to the east side of the bridge. Midwest Decorative Stone is objecting, as the bridge is already on the east edge of the right-of-way. A more detailed recounting of this issue, including proposed designs, is on pp. 21-31 in the packet of the Board of Public Works meeting for June 16, 2014 (PDF, 1.6 Mbytes).

The various re-designs attempt to give General Beverage more parking and more convenient access to parking, but at the cost of tighter turns, substandard headroom, and/or narrower access paths for bridge users. Perhaps the likeliest, and worst, possible result, is that the bridge and trail could be completed in 2014 without a south access path to/from the eastbound McKee Rd bicycle lanes. If this happens, the south access path would be built later, in conjunction with a future DOT project in some future year.

Having no south access path could lead to bridge users crossing the six lanes of McKee Rd under the bridge without the help of traffic controls, sidewalk bicycling along McKee Rd, or wrong-way bicycling in the McKee Rd bike lanes. Since the next stage of Verona Rd construction around McKee Rd begins in 2017, this dangerous situation is likely to persist for three years.

Absent in the discussions of this issue have been bridge users, particularly bicyclists. I have argued, without much success, that delaying the access path or redesigning it to optimize parking for General Beverage, to the detriment of bridge users, is bad public policy. Instead the original design should be used, and WisDOT should work with General Beverage to modify the interchange design so as to not need so much land from the company.

WisDOT has removed itself from the discussion, asking the City to decide among the potential designs. So far two City commissions (Public Works and Transportation) have declined to make a recommendation. The Common Council will take up the question at its 7:30pm meeting on Tuesday, June 24. (The agenda will be released Friday afternoon, June 20, here.) I believe that a strong turnout of path and trail advocates demanding access path completion this summer, with a design meeting WisDOT recommendations for state trails, will help Common Council members send General Beverage back to WisDOT for relief, to amend the interchange design so it doesn’t need so much land from General Beverage.

Here’s how you can help:

Please consider coming to the Common Council meeting, at City Hall, 5520 Lacy Rd., on Tuesday, June 24th at 7:30pm to support the bicyclists and pedestrians who will use the bridge. You can speak or merely register in support. Since the draft resolution has both east and west side alignments, your oral or written comments must specify that you support a western access path and completion this year.

If you have questions about the bridge options or the mechanics of testifying before Fitchburg’s Common Council, do not hesitate to contact me.

- Steve Arnold, Fitchburg Alder, District 4, Seat 7 & Bike Fed Member

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2 thoughts on “Your advocacy is needed

  1. While bike riders fear a loss of access, business owners forget that bikers may also be customers. Bike access past a business is free advertising.

  2. Bike access to General Beverage might not be critical to them, sounds as though they are a wholesaler. Then again, bike access might prompt some employees to bike commute. A bridge is badly needed at this spot; I’ve seen youngsters just ride out into traffic there, convinced that the motor traffic would regard them as pedestrians and yield. The “Stop” signs on either side of McKee Rd did not seem to catch their attention. I’m prety savvy on a bike, but would far rather avoid motorized traffic, and think this is a great way to do so.

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