New Trails and Bike Plans in Southeast Wisconsin

People interested in the future of bicycling in southeastern Wisconsin have a few opportunities to have their voices heard at three public meetings coming up next week. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration require such public information meetings (PIMs in government vernacular) for any bicycle or road projects that use state and federal money. These are important opportunities for citizens to learn about and influence the future of bicycling in Wisconsin and local communities.

Typically, the first meetings are held after 30% plans are developed.  At this point, it is still possible to get important changes made in plans. For instance, at the 30% review of the plans for to extend the Hank Aaron State Trail, I noticed that there were no ramps connecting the trail to the neighborhood streets that dead ended into the former railroad right of way.  I suggested they connect every street to the trail, just as they would if the were building a road past a series of neighorhood streets.

At the next PIM, the 60% plans included several new neighborhood connections, but not every one I suggested. If people had not attended the initial PIM to review those plans, the only way to access the trail would have been at a couple at-grade road crossings and a series of informal dirt “desire line” trails.  The HAST still needs more of those little goat paths formalized, but access is much better than it would have been. Once the plans get past 60%, it gets harder to change anything significant, so the initial PIMs tend to be more important than the later meetings on typical construction projects.

Only when we show up and make our voice heard can we create real change. As John Burke, the CEO of Trek Bicycles, is fond of saying, “the world is run by those people who show up.” I hope you will be able to make time to take a stand for bicycling next week.

If you have an important bicycling public meeting coming up in your local community, please post it on the Bike Fed calendar as an event here. You can also email us details and if you think it might be important for a staff member from the Bike Fed to be there. On occasion, the Bike Fed can help publicize very important meetings by sending out targeted emails to our members in the area.

Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Transportation Planning Open House

Tuesday, June 26
5:00 pm to 7:30 pm
Tommy G. Thompson Youth Center
Wisconsin State Fair Park
640 S. 84th Street
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

The Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC) is the official metropolitan planning organization (MPO) and regional planning commission (RPC) for the seven county southeastern Wisconsin area. They not only create the long-range plans for the region, but much of the funding from the Federal Highway Administration is funneled through the MPO.  SEWRPC distributes those funds to municipalities based on a formula that takes into account miles of roadway, vehicle miles traveled, population and other factors.  Some MPOs and RPCs use multi-modal elements of proposed projects to help rank them, but SEWRPC does not.

While SEWRPC has historically done a reasonable job including bicycling in their long-range planning, it is critical that people who actually ride bikes in their communities give the Metropolitan Planning Organization input into the plans. Furthermore, this is a very important opportunity to ask questions about how road projects and the money that pays for them, is distributed. By asking those questions, you will not only gain a better understanding of how projects are funded, but remind our leaders that bicycling is important and deserves fair consideration when funds are being distributed.

This public meeting is being conducted as part of a review of the process for planning transportation in the southeastern part of Wisconsin. The review is conducted every four years by the Federal Highway Administration. The Federal Highway Administration reviews and certifies all MPOs and RPCs and the FHA has already made some suggestions regarding the inclusion of multi-modal planning. You can read a bit more about how SEWRPC works and their relationship to federal and local governments here. This article by Milwaukee area reporter Jame Rowen, he is very critical of SEWRPC and the last recertification in 2008 by FHA. Because of the re-certification process, any comments you make will essentially be said through a megaphone loud enough to be heard at the federal level.

Here are some questions I would like to ask:

  • It is well-known that transportation improvements have an effect on land use.  When a bypass is built around a town, new businesses spring up around the bypass.  How does SEWRPC take into account this “feedback loop” in its long-range planning process?
  • How does SEWRPC rank projects applying for Federal “flexible funding” programs such as Surface Transportation (STP)?  Are projects with multi-modal aspects such as bike lanes, sidewalks, or bus pull-outs given priority?
  • Why hasn’t SEWRPC conducted a full update to the Regional Bicycle and Pedestrian plan?  An updated plan could identify critical gaps in the regional bicycle network, and could guide local and County governments as they apply for funding.
  • Does SEWRPC take a leadership role in promoting multi-modal transportation in the region?

If you are unable to attend the meeting, Written comments may also be submitted no later than July 16, 2012, by mail, fax, or e-mail to:

Planning Certification Review 
Federal Highway Administration
525 Junction Rd, Suite 8000
Madison, WI 53717
Fax:  608-829-7526

Cannonball Bike Path Public Information Meeting

Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Open House: 6:30-7:00 p.m.
7:00 p.m. followed by Q&A
Fitchburg Public Library, Meeting Rooms A&B

The Cannonball Bike Path will be an important  transportation and recreation path for the greater Madison area. Linking Fitchburg with downtown Madison, this connection will fill a major gap in the current Madison region bicycling network.

Attend the Public Meeting to see preliminary plans for the next phases of the project, discuss the project with city staff and consultants, and provide your input on this vital connection. You can read more about the path, make comments and get answers from City of Madison staff at this webpage here.

More info on the Cannonball Path:

The Cannonball Path, Phase 2 and 4 project will consist of constructing a 10-ft wide asphalt path within the abandoned Union Pacific Railroad corridor from McKee Road northeasterly to the east edge of the UW-Arboretum. At its south end, the path will connect to the Military Ridge State Trail and cross McKee Road.

Continuing northeast within the corridor, the path will connect to the Capital City State Trail, Badger State Trail, and Southwest Path. Continuing east the path will pass through Dunn’s Marsh, cross Seminole Highway, and continue on the south side of the UW-Arboretum where it will connect with the portion of Cannonball Path that was constructed by the City of Madison in 2011, Phase 1 of this multi-phase project.

Beloit to Janesville Trail Meeting

Click map for a larger view. Map from the Janesville Gazette

The Rock Trail Coalition will host the final public meeting regarding the proposed Beloit – Janesville bike trail. The meeting will be an open house format where visitors may view maps and comment on the various proposed routes. This trail has the potential to be part of a much larger future off-road connection to Chicago.  Read more about this exciting trail plan here in a well reported story in the Janesville Gazette.
Wednesday, June 20 at Vision Beloit 500 Public Avenue from 6:30 – 8:00 p.m.

Submitted by Dean Paynter
Rock Trail Coalition


About Dave Schlabowske, Deputy Director

Dave was the first full-time staff member hired to open the Bike Fed's Milwaukee office 15 years ago. A former professional photographer and life-long Milwaukee resident, Dave likes wool, long rides, sour beer, and a good polar vortex once in a while.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *