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Residents share thoughts on planned two-way Court Street conversion

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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

JANESVILLE—Residents who attended a city forum to learn about plans to convert Court Street into a two-way road seemed most excited not for two-way traffic but additional bike lanes.

The city on Tuesday officially unveiled a proposal to turn Court Street into a two-way road from Academy Street to Atwood Avenue.

Residents had plenty of questions and concerns, but several approved of bike lanes planned from Five Points to Garfield Avenue.

According to the city's proposal, bike lanes would run in both directions along Court Street from Five Points to Atwood Avenue. At intersections that include left-turn lanes, there would be street markings called "sharrows" to indicate motorists and bicyclists share the lane. From Atwood to Garfield Avenue, Court Street would remain one way with a single lane for vehicles and two lanes for bicycles.

"I think it is super," said Dean Paynter, who represents the Rock Trail Coalition.

The coalition has been working with Janesville for 25 years to construct bike lanes. Bicycle riding is becoming more popular, and dedicated bike lanes are important for downtowns, Paynter said.

"If we're trying to get cyclists and the young urbanite downtown, we need bicycle access," he said.

Creating lanes specifically for bicycles increases the amount of cyclists because they feel safer with their own lanes. Bike lanes weren't included in the Milwaukee Street conversion to a two-way street last year, which makes including them on Court Street important, Paynter said.

One concern Paynter has with the city's proposal is it doesn't include infrastructure to protect cyclists going straight at an intersection from motorists turning right. He recommended the city look into the issue.

Other residents also voiced support for the bike lanes.

"The more we install, the better. That's what people want." said resident Rich Bostwick. "Bike lanes provide a layer of safety people are looking for."

According to the city's proposal, traffic heading east on Court Street from Five Points would be funneled into a single lane before Academy Street, where the road would become two ways, said Paul Woodard, director of public works.

Traffic signals at the Jackson Street and River Street intersections would be removed. Two-way stop signs would be placed on Jackson and River streets in their places, he said.

The conversion wouldn't remove on-street parking on the Court Street bridge. Eight additional parking spaces could be added along the converted stretch of Court Street, Woodard said.

Court Street from Atwood Avenue to Garfield Avenue would remain one way but become a single-lane road instead of the two-lane road it is now. The stretch would have parking on the south side, as it does now, and two bicycle lanes.

Resident and local developer Britten Langfoss asked if it would be possible to make Court Street two ways up to Garfield. Woodard said it's possible but would require getting rid of either the bicycle lanes or on-street parking.

Bostwick, who lives near the area, agreed with Langfoss. Vehicles often speed down that stretch of road, and police officers rarely enforce speed limits there. Making the area two ways might change that, he said.

Overall, Bostwick favors the project.

"I think it'll make things slower and safer. I just hope that they (the city) will consider extending it as far east as Garfield for those same reasons," he said.

The city also is proposing turning Cherry Street into a cul de sac to cut off its access to where it intersects with Court and High streets. Another option would be to turn High Street into a cul de sac, but High Street is more of a throughway than Cherry Street, Woodard said.

A resident who owns several buildings at the intersection of Court and Cherry streets expressed concerns with cutting off access to his properties. Woodard said the city could work with him to figure out a solution.

One resident who works at a business near Court Street voiced concerns with the hill running from Parker Place to Main Street.

During the winter, cars have trouble on the steep incline, and converting the area to two ways will make it more dangerous, he said.

Woodard said there are other two-way roads on hills in Janesville vehicles navigate in the winter with little trouble.

The project is estimated to cost $300,000 and will be funded through a tax increment financing district. The Janesville City Council will discuss the issue at its Oct. 9 meeting.



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