There has been lots of rumors and discussion regarding Monona’s proposed Pedestrian & Bicycle Improvements Plan circulating on the web and elsewhere in recent days. The following is some background information I hope will help clarify the situation.
Monona’s roads were originally designed in an era when sidewalks and bike facilities were not routinely considered a necessary component of the transportation network. As a result, very few of our streets have sidewalks, bike lanes or other features supporting walking and biking.
Times have changed. In recent years, the city has heard from many residents about the need for safe places to walk and bike in Monona as well as safety concerns regarding specific areas of the city, one of which is South Winnequah Road. Our transportation network should accommodate people of all ages and abilities, including people too young to drive, people who cannot drive and people who choose not to drive.
Communities that don’t adapt don’t thrive. That’s why I proposed funding to develop a pedestrian/bicycle improvements plan for Monona. The plan was developed over the past 18 months by an ad hoc committee of Monona residents working with traffic engineers from Strand and Associates. Chaired by Alder Doug Wood, it included representatives from the public works and public safety committees, community members and other stakeholders. In addition, residents were asked to provide input at two public information meetings.
The committee was asked to design a plan to develop safe, accessible corridors through the community for everyone, whether in a car, on a bike or traveling on foot. A major focus of the committee’s work was creating safe routes to connect residents to community destinations such as parks, businesses, schools, the pool and library.
The pedestrian/bicycle plan is intended to be a guide for future projects everywhere in Monona. It is not a mandate for anything. It suggests possible improvements for many problem areas in the city. That doesn’t mean there can’t be other improvements considered, nor does it mean that the council is required to implement any of them.
Consideration of the plan is on the city council agenda for the second time at the Aug. 19 meeting. Council members received the plan a few weeks ago and have familiarized themselves with it. At the Aug. 19 meeting, staff will provide a presentation of the plan and council will have time for questions and comment. Then the council will be asked to vote on whether or not to accept (not “approve”) the plan. The council has routinely accepted plans developed by various committees over the years.
Again, voting to accept the plan is not approval or endorsement of the particular ideas or recommendations included in the plan and does not necessarily mean the city will be implementing everything suggested in the plan. It is merely a guide for future planning purposes.
I do intend to propose bicycle, pedestrian and facilities improvements in my capital budgets in the coming years, and I assume that if I didn’t do so, the council would vote to add the improvements to these budgets. This is based on the feedback that the council has received on this issue over the past few years. The specific designs will be developed by professional engineers, made available to the public and reviewed by the public works committee before being voted on by the council.
The ped/bike plan’s recommendations for South Winnequah Road have been the subject of much debate, both online and elsewhere. When the council votes on whether or not to accept the Pedestrian & Bicycle Improvements Plan on the 19th, it won’t be voting on a specific design plan for South Winnequah. Such a plan doesn’t currently exist.
The city does intend to make improvements on South Winnequah within the next few years. Winnequah Road is a collector street, designed to funnel traffic from nearby residential streets to Monona’s main arterials – Monona Drive and Broadway and back. With over 4,000 vehicles traveling it each day, South Winnequah, in particular, is commonly considered to be one of the most problematic areas in the city by many of the people who routinely drive, bike or walk there. It does not currently meet accepted engineering design standards. It’s not good enough for our community.
We have already taken low-impact steps to improve safety on South Winnequah by removing parking during much of the year and increasing speed monitoring. Additional improvements that will be considered include removing the bumpouts, installation of parking bays, adding raised intersections, sidewalks between Bridge and Maywood on one or both sides, wider bike lanes and pavement milling and resurfacing with new pavement marking. Ultimately, the city council may approve some or all of the options proposed in any final plan for South Winnequah once it is developed, depending on a variety of factors, including projected cost, safety and environmental impacts and engineering considerations.
We realize that any of the proposed physical improvements to the South Winnequah roadway or anywhere else in the city may impact trees. We will not remove any trees unless it is necessary to do so. Any suggestion that we will “deforest” any street in Monona is unfounded and inaccurate. Our trees are an integral part of what makes Monona such a beautiful city, and we will always strive to affect the smallest number possible.
However, one of our most important responsibilities is keeping the residents of Monona and visitors to our community safe now and in the future. Such a long-term perspective needs to take into account what is best for the entire community now and for decades to come.
We hoped to have a design for South Winnequah completed in time for consideration in the 2020 capital budget. I have always said that would be dependent on a variety of factors including our ability to obtain all the information needed to finalize a design. Given that much information gathering is still needed before engineers can start the design as well as the concerns we’ve heard from the community regarding possible impacts of the new riverfront development, I have decided to move it back to 2021.
When an engineering design is proposed for South Winnequah several things will happen:
– There will be public information meetings that residents will be notified of in advance.
– The plan will go to the public works committee for review and comment and a vote.
– The plan will then go to the city council where it will be read at one meeting and then
voted on at a second meeting (usually two weeks later).
In all three cases, residents will be able to attend and give input. If you would like to sign up to be notified of meetings of the public works committee and city council or any other city committee, please click on Notify Me at mymonona.com.
In the meantime, if you would like to see the ped/bike plan and any of the supporting materials the committee considered, please go to http://www.mymonona.com/1330/Pedestrian-and- Bicycle-Improvements.
To contact any city official regarding the ped/bike plan or anything else, please call City Hall at 222-2525. You may also send the council and mayor an email message by going to http://mymonona.com/127/City-Council and selecting “Contact All Council Members” on the right side.
Finally, there is always a public appearances section on the agenda of every council and city committee meeting where the community can come and express their concerns.