Janesville52.3°

Vote plugs bike tunnel

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MARCIA A. NELESEN
August 11, 2010
— Safety at a mid-block bike crossing on East Milwaukee Street could be improved by fall.

The Janesville City Council on Monday voted 5-2 to dump plans for a bike tunnel at the crossing located between Wright Road and Shannon Drive and instead narrow traffic to one lane in each direction and build an island refuge. The change will save the city about $385,000.


Council members in 2006 agreed to build a tunnel at a cost of $160,000 for safety reasons. But the costs ballooned to $720,000 over the years. Of that, the state had pledged $235,000.


The cost incensed some residents, and some council members began having second thoughts as budgets tightened.


The council on Monday approved narrowing the street to one lane in each direction and adding two bike lanes and a left-turn center lane beginning at Wright Road. The bike crossing would include rapid-flashing beacons, a center-island refuge and a button-activated crossing system.


The cost is $99,500, and the city has $117,000 left from the original $160,000 borrowed for the tunnel. The city likely will lose the $235,000 state grant.


"The ultimate goal was to provide a very simple crossing by reducing the number of lanes the pedestrians and bicyclists had to cross to a single lane at a time to a refuge in the middle," said Carl Weber, public works director.


Councilmen Frank Perrotto and Bill Truman voted against the plan.


Perrotto advocated an automatic system that would sense pedestrians rather than the conventional push-button activated system. An automatic system would have cost an additional $8,500.


"If there's one segment of the population that I want to protect, it's kids," he said. "Kids don't always push the button."


But Councilman Yuri Rashkin said all crossing systems should be the same across the city. The automatic system could send a sense of "false security" to the public, he said.


Councilman Tom McDonald said the automatic system was not worth the expense.


Councilman Bill Truman called reducing the traffic lanes a "great mistake."


Prior city employees and councils decided two lanes were needed, he said.


"Choking it down to one lane is a great concern to me," Truman said, noting that the road is also a truck route.


Truman doubted that the council would consider reducing the number of lanes if a large residential development at the corner of Highway A and 14 had not failed.


Truman's vote also was a protest of a roundabout that will be built at Wuthering Hills Drive to the east. The roundabout is meant to slow traffic at the intersection, which was the site of a fatal accident in 2007. Reducing the traffic lanes will better feed into the single lane roundabout.


Truman predicted that the city would eventually revert to two lanes in each direction.


Weber said in June that the changes approved by the council are relatively simple, especially when compared to a tunnel.



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