Janesville City Council approves projects related to Court Street conversion

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Jake Magee
Tuesday, November 14, 2017

JANESVILLE—The Janesville City Council approved Monday a set of projects related to next year's conversion of Court Street to a two-way road, including how the intersection of Court and Jackson streets should be controlled.

The Janesville City Council voted 4-3 to approve three projects to clear the way for the conversion, which the council approved at its last meeting.

The city proposed and the council approved:

--Removing traffic lights at Court and Jackson streets and replacing them with stop signs for drivers on Jackson Street. The council previously approved removing the traffic lights at Court and River streets.

--Converting Cherry Street to a one-way, southbound road instead of a cul-de-sac, as city staff originally recommended.

--Minor changes to planned bike lanes running along Court Street from Linn Street to Garfield Avenue.

At the council's previous meeting, Councilman Paul Williams expressed concern with removing traffic signals at the intersection of Court and Jackson streets. That prompted the council to direct the city to re-examine the issue.

Last meeting, the council approved the $380,000 street conversion project. Keeping traffic lights at Jackson and Court streets would have required repurposing them, which would have added $145,000 to the project's cost. Paul Woodard, director of public works, said the traffic signals aren't warranted for the level of traffic on Court Street and are past their useful life cycle.

Still, Williams wanted the signals to remain.

Stop signs would be unsafe for motorists going south on Jackson Street and wanting to continue through Court Street, he argued. Motorists on Jackson Street would have to look to their right for vehicles coming from around a curve and to the left for new westbound traffic, he said.

Also, motorists on Court Street might go faster than they already do if they know they don't have to stop at a stoplight, Williams said.

"I believe that stop-and-go light needs to stay there for safety reasons," he said.

Councilman Jens Jorgensen agreed with Williams. Councilman Jim Farrell took issue with the project's cost. The three men were the votes against Councilman Rich Gruber's motion to approve the city's recommendations.

The city originally wanted to make Cherry Street a cul-de-sac. Other options to address concerns with the intersection of Cherry, Court and High streets included making Cherry Street a one-way road, making High Street a cul-de-sac or doing nothing, Woodard said.

After a developer expressed concerns with how a Cherry Street cul-de-sac would cut off access to his buildings, the city suggested making it a one-way road. That would allow for more parking and easier snow removal than a cul-de-sac, he said.

The council agreed with the Cherry Street and bike lane recommendations the city suggested.

Gruber said he was uncomfortable with the council approving specific components of a project.

"I have mixed emotions about the council taking up this level of detail," Gruber said.

Councilman Tom Wolfe pointed out it was Gruber who suggested at the last meeting to approve the Court Street conversion and have the city further examine related projects for later council approval.

The conversion will start in April and finish in June.

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