Janesville47.5°

Bike trail tunnel closer to reality

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MARCIA A. NELESEN
January 30, 2008
— A half-million-dollar tunnel under Milwaukee Street will likely be built this year now that the council OK’d spending $80,000 to move a water line.

The council learned Monday that it had received $235,000 from the state to divert the bike trail under Milwaukee Street between Shannon Drive and Wright Road.


The mid-block crossing has been deemed a safety hazard by city staff and some council members.


The city already has borrowed $160,000 for the project for a total of $475,000.


That was a sticker shock for a few of the council members.


Amy Loasching noted she wasn’t on the council when the project was initially discussed. She asked if cheaper alternatives were considered. What about moving the bike trail? What about installing traffic signals, instead?


City Manager Steve Sheiffer said the city had looked at the possibility of narrowing the street to one lane in each direction with an island in the middle.


“That was going to significantly cause traffic problems,” Sheiffer said.


An overpass is too expensive, and traffic lights would stop traffic on a major street.


Don’t other areas of the city have bad intersections, as well? Loasching asked.


In fact, other tunnels are needed, such as one on West Court Street, Sheiffer said.


“Oh, great,” Loasching answered.


Loasching wondered if the city could cancel the project and use the $160,000 to pay for salaries. Sheiffer said that money would have to be spent on another capital project.


Paul Williams, too, had a problem with the cost.


“Why don’t we just a put a sign up and say, ‘No crossing?’” he asked. “‘Go down to Wright Road (a half block away) and save a half-million dollars.’”


Russ Steeber and Tim Wellnitz urged the council to approve the money and the project, especially because the state is paying half.


Steeber said the city’s representatives might not be so quick to help in the future if the city didn’t use the money.


Even though it’s grant money, “It’s still taxpayer money,” Williams said.


At least the grant brings Janesville’s tax dollars back to the city, Steeber answered.


George Brunner said the crossing is the site of numerous complaints and near misses.


“I’ve always been concerned when citizens come here and say, ‘Are you going to wait until someone gets killed or severely injured?’” he said.


Support for the tunnel has been split among residents he’s talked to.


“I’m going to support it, but I don’t like it,” Brunner said.


“Let this be a lesson when we plan our trails that we don’t do a lot of mid-block crossings.”


Williams and Loasching voted against the $80,000 to move the water line, while Bill Truman, Wellnitz, Brunner and Steeber voted in favor.


The council still must approve the final project.


Jack Messer, director of operations, said he didn’t think Milwaukee Street would be closed to traffic during the project.



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