Of the hundreds of pages in the final report and supplemental information, the one piece of Monona’s bicycle and pedestrian improvement plan that is garnering the most pushback is the potential widening of Winnequah Road.
“The plan is intended to be a guide for future projects everywhere in Monona,” Mayor Mary O’Connor said at the Aug. 5 meeting of the Monona City Council “It is not a mandate for anything. That doesn’t mean there can’t be other improvements considered, nor does it mean the council has to accept any of the suggestions.”
The plan was first introduced to the council last week. It is expected the council will vote Monday on whether to accept the plan. O’Connor emphasized the difference between accepting the plan and approving the plan.
Residents expressed frustration over an engineering report that suggests a wider Winnequah Road, installing sidewalks and removing some trees.
“I think it’s come together too hastily, too little public input and too much of a reliance on consultants,” said Dave Lehrer, a Winnequah Road resident.
He said public meetings for the bike and pedestrian plan did not focus on sidewalks on Winnequah Road. He also cited a 2013 survey of city residents that showed sidewalks ranked 29th on a list of priorities.
Lehrer suggested the city slow down before it spends millions on Winnequah Road.
Jacqueline Hyde, another Winnequah Road resident, urged the council to consider making part of the road a one-way street to accommodate bikers and walkers without widening the roadway itself. She said she first suggested that idea in 2005.
Sharon Lehrer also asked the council to consider the one-way option. She also wanted more input into the final proposal.
“I feel the process is being rushed,” she said. “I feel that we’ve been in a position where we’ve had limited notification of meetings and stuff, so I’m just hoping going forward with the meetings that we’re given adequate time and notice of meetings so that the public can be there.”
Hyde also said the plan to widen the road is overkill and will destroy gardens and trees.
According to the engineering report, the moderate impacts and costs option removes the intersection bump-outs, provides raised intersections or neighborhood traffic circles to calm traffic, and provides 7-8 feet of shared on-street pedestrian and bicycle space on each side of the road. On-street parking is not allowed on either side.
The higher impacts and costs option is preferable, according to the report.
It adds sidewalk, preferably on both sides but on one side at a minimum. It removes the intersection bump-outs, provides raised intersections or neighborhood traffic circles to calm traffic, and provides buffered bike lanes on each side that are 7-8 feet wide. The city could add periodic parking bays on one or both sides of the street to mitigate the loss of on-street parking.
“We have not decided on a final plan for South Winnequah, and we will not be voting on a plan tonight,” O’Connor said.
The mayor said the bike and pedestrian ad hoc committee addressed the safety concerns in all areas of the city, including Winnequah Road, and that the bike and pedestrian plan is not the same as a plan for South Winnequah Road.
“There isn’t a plan for South Winnequah right now,” she said. “We’re still in the early stages of gathering information to formulate a plan.”
O’Connor said city officials recently met with a select number of Winnequah Road residents to discuss their retaining walls and to gather their specific input. She said the city will most likely remove 38 trees from the roadway.
“It has nothing to do with any proposed project on South Winnequah,” she said. “Last year, the city funded a UW forestry student to do a report on the condition of all the 5,850 trees in the city right of way. … About 10 percent are ash, all of which we know we will lose in the next few years due to emerald ash borer. There are approximately 230 trees in the right of way on South Winnequah. Last year, about 38 of those were deemed either distressed or dead. Eighteen of those are ash.”
O’Connor said that when a plan for South Winnequah Road is developed, all affected residents will be informed, the plan will be reviewed by the public works committee and there will be two meetings of the city council before anything is adopted.
Finally, she said that despite hopes to have something in place for 2020, it now appears as if nothing will be ready until 2021.
The council will meet at 7 p.m. Monday at the public library.