Planners from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WISDOT) will use three 12-foot-wide lanes and two five-foot-wide bicycle lanes when they design the new configuration of Hwy. 46 through Amery as part of the “road diet” to increase safety.
The Amery City Council voted 4-2 June 6 to make this recommendation as their preferred configuration following a discussion and dialog with Beth Cunningham from WISDOT and Peter Henry from the Bicycle and Pedestrian Task Force that worked on the project the since last fall.
The report was presented to the council in May and tabled until the June meeting. Council members Tim Strohbusch, Julie Riemenschneider, Rick Van Blaricom and Sarah Flanum voted to accept the modified recommendations, Rick Davis and Kris Vicker voted no.
WISDOT will be grinding down the pavement to remove lines on Keller Ave from York Park on Amery’s north side to Snow Street on the city’s south side. The road will go from its current configuration of two lanes of traffic in both directions to one lane of traffic in both directions with a two way left turn lane, referred to in discussions by its acronym, TWLTL. The nearly $1 million project is being funded 90 percent by the federal government, 10 percent by the State of Wisconsin. The “road diet” is intended to slow down traffic and reduce accidents.
The Task Force’s report recommended various lane widths for different sections of Keller Ave. The road has several narrower widths and a couple of blocks of wide widths downtown.
From Snow Street to Broadway (48 feet wide), the recommendation was for 11-foot-wide travel lanes, a 12-foot-wide TWLTL and six-foot-wide bicycle lanes in both directions, painted green. From Broadway to Center (60 feet wide), the report recommended two seven-foot-wide parking lanes (the same as is currently available), 11-foot-wide travel lanes, a 12-foot-wide TWLTL and six-foot-wide bicycle lanes in both directions.
For Center to Maple, the widest portion of the road at 72 feet, two seven-foot-wide parking lanes (the same as is currently available), a three-foot buffer between parking lanes and two seven-foot-wide bicycle lanes, painted green, then a two-foot buffer zone between the bicycle lanes and 11-foot-wide travel lanes and a 12-foot wide TWLTL.
From Maple to Highland (60 feet wide) two seven-foot-wide parking lanes (the same as is currently available), 11-foot-wide travel lanes, a 12-foot-wide TWLTL and six-foot-wide bicycle lanes in both directions.
For Hyland to York Park (48 feet wide), the recommendation was for 11-foot-wide travel lanes, a 12-foot-wide TWLTL and six-foot-wide bicycle lanes in both directions.
At Maple and Center Streets, the report called for seven-foot-wide by 15-foot-long curb extension (also referred to as “bump outs”) to cut down the width of the street for pedestrians.
Alderman Davis said that the task force was not a city committee and the report was not developed through the city’s committees. He could not and would not support 11-foot lane widths or bump outs. Davis also said that he would not support painting the bicycle lanes green.
“It will cost an estimated $70,000 to paint them,” Davis said. “We spend $500,000 to paint our water towers.”
Alderperson Vickers said that she could not support the recommendations. “Don’t go through downtown (with bicycle paths), go a block over,” she said.
Alderman Van Blaricom, who made the original motion to accept the recommendations, citing the recommendation of the Public Works committee to accept the report, commented that the report is a planning tool used to give direction to WISDOT regarding the city’s preferences for the way the new lanes will be drawn. He added that the bump outs are not a “done deal” and noted that parking spaces will be lost downtown regardless as part of the new design. Parking spaces will have to be 15 feet away from crosswalks.
WISDOT’s Cunningham told the council that the project is happening with or without the council’s input. “The State of Wisconsin does not require local approval,” she said. Cunningham noted that a 14-foot-wide turn lane could be used, as well as a 12/12/12 lane configuration. She told the council in the downtown area, where the street is 72 feet wide, there is “lots of space.” She noted that 11-foot-wide lanes are acceptable in urban locations and will reduce speed. Cunningham noted that Spooner has four 11-foot-wide lanes.
Task Force member Peter Henry said that 11-foot-wide lanes would work because vehicles would have a six-foot-wide bicycle and a 12-foot-wide left turn lane on either side that wouldn’t be in constant use. “You will have up to 29 feet of space to negotiate,” he said. “You’re not going to be crowded in an 11-foot lane.”
Vickers said that it was a safety concern for her. “Don’t jeopardize safety – take it (bicycle traffic) off the main drag.”
Alderperson Flanum asked if a five-foot-wide bicycle lane through town would work. Henry said that in areas where the road is wide enough, it could work. On the 48-foot-wide sections of the road, cyclists would be in the gutter. Cunningham added that WISDOT will resurface to the gutter on the narrower road width sections.
Strohbusch stressed that the design process will be brought to the council before work will be done.
When consensus was reached for a 12/12/12 lane width configuration, Van Blaricom withdrew his original motion and made a new motion for the new lane widths, which passed on a 4-2 vote.
Van Blaricom suggested to Cunningham that WISDOT look into using some of the road right of way to put a right turn lane onto Keller from Cherry Street, across from McDonald’s.