[NEWS GRAPHIC REPOST]
Mequon to appeal DOT denials State rebuffs city’s plans for traffic-calming steps in the Town Center
By Lisa Curtis
Special to the News Graphic
MEQUON — Mequon city officials had some stern words for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation after the state denied nearly a half dozen of the city’s requests for improvements at the bustling Interurban Trail Crossing at Mequon Road and, in some cases, recommended new modifications that would complicate the city’s mission.
During a Committee of the Whole meeting earlier this month, aldermen were perplexed, frustrated and ready to plead with WisDOT to see the value in the numerous safety improvements the city proposed for the area.
The trail crossing at Mequon Road sees hundreds of trail users and nearly 18,000 vehicles on any given day. And while its location in the heart of the Mequon Town Center may be ideal for residents, bicyclists and pedestrians to visit the many retail and restaurant options, it also means there’s a flurry of activity for cars, bikers and walkers to navigate.
The Mequon Public Market, Foxtown Brewing, the Cafe Hollander center and the Piggly Wiggly shopping center, apartments and the Residence at Foxtown homes are located adjacent or within yards of the trail. Additionally, there is a 22,069-square-foot, multi-tenant building with a restaurant and beer garden under construction just west of the trail.
Also added to the mix is the Union Pacific Railroad tracks just feet from the Interurban Trail. The city has proposed a Danish crossing that calls for a number of traffic-calming measures, including adding a stoplight at Mequon Road and Weston Drive, a widened sidewalk west to Weston Drive, narrowed auxiliary lanes, a flashing beacon signage at the crossing, a dynamic speed board, decorative fencing and landscaping within the median and a speed limit reduction.
Because Mequon Road is a state-owned connecting highway, the city needs WisDOT approval for the road improvements.
The state denied the city’s request for a flashing beacon sign to alert motorists of the trail crossing, the request for narrowed auxiliary lanes and a reduced speed limit through the area, among others.
Not only that, it also said the city must eliminate the median opening into Town Center 1 on Mequon Road just west of Cedarburg Road and install a “Do Not Stop on Tracks” sign east of the railroad crossing for the westbound traffic.
The state did approve the stoplight, but on the condition that the city modify the length of the turn lanes. The current speed limit is 40 mph. The city has not specified what speed they want to bring it down to, but WisDOT said that they would only consider it if traffic starts to slow down first.
The city said that modifying turn lane lengths could impact private property.
Much of the two-hour discussion was deciding whether to appeal the decisions, and risk delaying the safety improvements.
Alderman Brian Parrish said he has already conceded that they will not meet their goals of making the fixes next summer. He said whatever is done must not be approved hastily.
But Alderman Glenn Bushee, who has been very vocal about how the upgrades are needed to avoid serious or fatal accidents, said he regularly gets calls from people asking why they don’t have a trail crossing yet.
“The longer we wait and the more time goes by, the more of an issue that we’re not addressing,” Bushee said.
Aldermen were particularly perplexed by WisDOT denying a request to decrease the auxiliary lanes to 8 feet and instead install 5-foot bike lanes along Buntrock Avenue and Cedarburg Road. The city had hoped to use a portion of the auxiliary lanes for traffic-calming measures such as landscaping and terraces between the roadway and the lanes.
“We’re trying to slow things down. The DOT is trying to keep 10,000 cars a day and 500 gasoline tankers moving swiftly east to west,” Alderman Andrew Nerbun said. “And those are in utter conflict with one another. We’re trying to get that whole mess to slow down.
This is our downtown. We should fight hard for that.”
They debated for nearly an hour about whether to accept the decision and modify the WisDOT-mandated lanes, but there was much disagreement as to how. Striping, subtle rumble strips and narrow traffic pylons were discussed to separate the bikes and vehicles, but were not favored by everyone.
Ultimately the council voted to appeal most of the decisions. They are asking residents to also weigh in by contacting their state representatives and doing the same.
The state has 90 days to reply to the city.
“We do elect people to represent us in Madison,” Wirth said.