Janesville residents share concerns about proposed pedestrian overpass

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Friday, June 8, 2012
— Residents who live near a proposed pedestrian and bike overpass on Interstate 90/39 told city officials Thursday night they’re concerned about increased traffic and maintenance costs associated with a bridge that likely wouldn’t be used much.

More than 30 residents, most of whom live on the east side of I-90/39 near the proposed overpass, attended a meeting at Marshall Middle School to hear about the project and share their thoughts with city officials. The majority of the dozen residents who spoke either were against the project or said it was unneeded.

Federal Highway Administration officials reviewed the project and considered it an appropriate use of federal funds, said Carl Weber, city public works director. Grants would pay for the $550,000 to $650,000 cost to design and build the overpass, he said.

“I know there are some folks who say it doesn’t matter where the money’s coming from—you shouldn’t spend it unless it makes good sense—and I don’t disagree with that,” he said. “We’re just trying to find out whether it makes good sense.”

If built, the overpass would be just south of Monroe Elementary School and line up with Dover Court on the east side of I-90/39.

The city last month asked the school board whether the city should apply for the grant to build the overpass. Reaction from school board members was tepid, but the majority decided to direct the city to apply for the grant so the issue could be explored.

The city owns public right-of-way on the east side of I-90/39, but the school district would have to allow the use of its land near Monroe School.

The city will find out in August if it received the grant.

The site was identified for a future crossing when the subdivision on the east side of the Interstate was built in 1964, city records show.

This was in somebody’s mind back in the early 60s,” Weber said.

Monroe is a unique elementary school in Janesville in that 65 percent of its students live outside of the school’s boundary, with a “good number” of them east of the Interstate, said Terry Nolan, a city transportation planner.

Residents who live in the Somerset Drive/Stafford Road neighborhood said they have a quiet, low-traffic area where people feel safe walking without sidewalks. They wondered if an overpass would force them to put in sidewalks, and some feared parents would use the east end of the overpass as a new student drop-off site, increasing traffic on their quiet streets.

Weber said a separate committee is studying the city’s sidewalk plan, and a bridge wouldn’t necessarily mean sidewalks are needed in that area.

“The simple answer is I don’t think that this changes how you might determine whether or not there should be sidewalks,” he said.

Resident Bill Brown said taxpayer-funded projects must be cost effective. It’s closer for many of the students east of the highway to walk to Milwaukee Street or Ruger Avenue.

“I think this walk would service a very small portion of the population,” he said. “I do agree that the walkway might tie the communities together, but again, I’m not sure we’re getting the greatest bang for the buck.”

Others worried about the cost to maintain the overpass and whether snow and ice would be removed in a timely manner.

Jeff Fluegel, who lives on Wexford Road and has two children, was the only resident to speak in support of the project. He said he could see benefits for his family to have access to the schools and shopping along Milwaukee Street.

“It does open up the area for a lot of people,” he said.

Three other residents submitted written comments in support, saying they would use the overpass as a shortcut and for biking and walking.

Opinions gathered Thursday night will be shared with the city council and school board.

Last updated: 8:49 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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