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Wauwatosa approves a parking experiment on North Avenue

Dec. 12, 2012

North Avenue parking, and North Avenue more generally, kept the Traffic and Safety Committee talking for more than an hour Tuesday night, and when it was all over, the committee had agreed to a 90-day trial of street parking on the south side of North from Ludington Avenue west to 91st Street.

Pressure for parking spaces near Alterra at the corner of North and Swan Boulevard has always been high, but with the pending expansion of Alterra, and the building it inhabits full for the first time in years, parking is in ever higher demand.

Cars fill the lot around the building, park on Jackson Park Boulevard a block away, on the north side of North, and on Swan north of North in the angle-parking alongside the Swan Serv-U Pharmacy.

The vote allowing new North Avenue parking was motivated partly by the parking problem, but was also seen by aldermen as a kind of pilot program to test the calming effect of curbside parking on a busy arterial route.

A study has been commissioned for the east end of North Avenue that is designed to make it more neighborhood and business friendly by increasing roadside parking, installing bike lanes, slowing traffic with stop signs, and reducing left-turn options.

A similar study was commissioned for the Village.

A study is being contemplated but is not yet funded for North from Wauwatosa Avenue west that would seek to marry the two stretches of road and apply the same traffic-calming, pedestrian- and business-friendly principles throughout.

Alderman James Moldenhauer pressed Public Works Director Bill Porter to find funding in his 2013 budget, as early as possible, to undertake the traffic study of the west end of North. Then Moldenhauer and Committee Chairman Jason Wilke took up the idea of approving the agenda proposal for a 90-day trial period of parking on North, with the specific request that it return to the committee at the end of that period for review, and to see if funding for the full study is available.

Alderman Dennis McBride pointed out that striping the road to make the new parking option clearer couldn't be done in the winter; signage would have to suffice.

Porter said he preferred a study be done before making the change, and suggested that some drivers would have difficulty adjusting.

Wilke said drivers would quickly get the hang of it. The committee also discussed more assertive ways of spreading the news, such as mailings.

Taming traffic on North was given urgency by Kurt and Vicki Spiering, who attended the meeting advocating clearer crossings and, for Vicki, more orange cones put to use by crossing guards. Their son was hit by a car as he crossed North years ago. Now an adult, he is fine, but Vicki Spiering said she was deeply worried about all the kids who cross North to go to school.

Alderman Jeff Roznowski said special, lighted crosswalk signs were ordered and were on their way, which Vicki Spiering applauded.

Roznowski has been active in the Safe Routes to School program, which advocates creating safe walking and biking routes for students to get to school.

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