Do we really need a new highway through La Crosse?

Click to open a link to the Final Environmental Impact Statement : La Crosse North-South Transportation Corridor Study

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%.

More people in La Crosse are doing this.

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.

We have enough highways just for motor vehicles.


About Carolyn Dvorak, La Crosse Ambassador

Carolyn lives in La Crosse with her husband and two daughters. She has loved riding a bicycle throughout her life. She enjoys working in the La Crosse area helping to create great places to bicycle.

3 thoughts on “Do we really need a new highway through La Crosse?

  1. The article seems a little thin on important details, unless the community is experiencing misgivings about its resolution. Are the elected officials who are trying to continue the study local leaders or are they outside legislators trying to impose on the city? Leaving money on the table could be a good solution if it by taking it would only lead to an undesirable result. If it could be used to implement complete streets and other balanced transportation goals for the community, then maybe continuing the study is warranted. What is the likely direction?
    Most people want to live on quiet streets – ones with little traffic. So I don’t know why our transportation planning and modeling is so focused on increasing rather than reducing motor vehicle traffic. Finding ways to get people and things where they need to be with less use of motor vehicles would seem to be a good thing.

  2. The Coulee Connection has been more commonly been called the north-south corridor. It has been discussed and passed over since the 1940s. The most recent resolution was passed to block the corridor in 1998. There isn’t a lot of room for roads between the river and the bluffs. Although we have Complete Streets in place, we don’t want another road through the city making it more difficult to travel by bicycle or foot. We have no reason to believe that another study wouldn’t lead to another high capacity road through the middle of the city working against all of the work that has been done.

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