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Janesville City Council to consider two-way traffic plan

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MARCIA A. NELESEN
June 24, 2011
— The Janesville City Council could put a long-debated issue to rest Monday when it is expected to decide the direction of traffic on Milwaukee and Court streets.

Many downtown business owners have long asked that the one-way streets be converted to two-way to slow traffic, change the downtown climate and attract customers.


Last year, the city considered alternatives that ranged in price from $385,000 to $1.8 million. All called for converting both Court and Milwaukee streets to two-way traffic and varying options for handling traffic flow at Five Points.


A compromise is now recommended by City Manager Eric Levitt and the Downtown Development Alliance.


The option would convert only Milwaukee Street to two-way traffic beginning at Main Street and ending just east of Five Points. It would cost an estimated $121,850.


Court Street would remain one-way.


“While this is significantly less than the other alternatives previously considered, it’s still a significant expense during a time when the city is undergoing unprecedented financial challenges,” Carl Weber, director of public works, wrote in a memo.


Not all business owners favor making Milwaukee Street two-way, which is why the DDA opted for the compromise. In a survey, the majority of Milwaukee Street business owners west of the Rock River favored the change, but 10 owners east of the river did not.


The city already has converted Jackson and Franklin streets from one-way to two-way traffic, and staff has not noticed a measurable change in accidents.


Any change also should not have substantial impacts on traffic volumes or affect the workings of the intersections, Weber said.


“It then becomes a question of the cost of the conversion versus the expected benefit of reestablishing a more conventional traffic pattern for a central business district,” Weber said.


Making West Milwaukee a two-way street between Main and Locust streets would undoubtedly slow traffic, Weber has said. That's inherent in any switch from a three-lane, one-way street to a street with one lane of travel in each direction.


"If traffic is put into a single lane rather than three lanes, it will slow down," Weber has said. "There's no passing, and there's a supposition of conflict, such as traffic coming from the other direction in close proximity. Other potential conflicts are cross streets, driveways and parking, so traffic will slow down."


Slowing traffic is a goal of downtown business owners who want their businesses as visible and accessible as possible.


The city could save $20,000 by coordinating the council’s decision with future roadwork, which is why the council is being asked to make a decision now.


Council members could decide to leave traffic as it is.


ON THE AGENDA

The Janesville City Council will meet at 7 p.m. Monday in City Hall, 18 N. Jackson St.


Items on the agenda include:


-- Review and action on a plan to reconstruct River Street between Racine and Court streets.


-- Possible action on a council code of conduct. The code would provide guidelines for public officials, such as conduct during public meetings, when to represent the council in personal opinions, keeping information confidential and dealing with conflicts of interest.


-- A public hearing on a request to rezone property at 3400 County F for the new county nursing home.


-- Action on transferring $13,000 from a tax incremental financing district for a new façade for the former Jeffris Theater downtown.



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