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Wauwatosa aldermen upset with DOT plans for Burleigh Street

Aug. 6, 2014

With Alderman Dennis McBride calling it one of those "I'm mad as Hell and I'm not going to take it anymore" moments, several aldermen angrily rejected the state Department of Transportation's plan to widen intersections on Burleigh Street at a Budget and Finance Committee meeting July 29.

"They're just coming in like gangbusters and telling us this is what we're going to do," McBride said. "They didn't ask us (aldermen) about this."

Looking at a proposed agreement from DOT to widen parts of Burleigh Street from Mayfair Road to 124th Street, aldermen on the Budget and Finance Committee unanimously decided to table the proposal and appointed three committee members to try to negotiate with the DOT. The proposed changes are in response to the development of Mayfair Collection and a Meijer Store on Burleigh.

The city's power over the road is limited because of intersections with state highways Mayfair Road and U.S. 45, which are under DOT control. But the aldermen, who said they had not been given a chance to weigh in on the proposal, hope DOT officials will be willing to make some compromises.

"As a city we've taken an approach where we give too much away and don't understand fully what we're signing up for," Alderman Craig Wilson said. "We want to bring everybody back to the table to understand what each stakeholder feels they need."

Several aldermen said they would like to see fewer lanes across than DOT has proposed. They also want guarantees of features that will help bicyclists and pedestrians use the roads safely.

"We have spent an enormous amount of time on our bike and pedestrian plan and if we do not include that we've lost out on a wonderful opportunity," Alderman Jeff Roznowski said. "Given the significant number of DOT projects that have affected our city, I think it's important for us to take a stand and say we need to be part of the conversation and not allow overbuilding that compromises the character of our city."

Under the DOT's plan, by 2023, Burleigh Street would be eleven lanes across at the Mayfair Road intersection, including three through lanes in each direction.

"Burleigh is becoming an even bigger barrier than it is already," Alderman Jason Wilke said. "If we ever want to have our kids in the 8th District bike or walk to school, how are they going to cross?"

Wilke, Roznowski and Wilson were appointed to negotiate with DOT on behalf of the city. Public Works Director Bill Porter said the city is considering contracting with a consultant to study the area and help determine the best outcome. City officials then plan to bring their own proposal to DOT.

"The ball is in our court now to propose what we're looking for," Porter said.

DOT spokesman Michael Pyritz said the department will "continue to work with Wauwatosa" on planning changes to Burleigh Street, and possibly adding features for pedestrians and bicyclists.

"They are not always a part of the final plans but are a part of planning any project," Pyritz said of bike and pedestrian accommodations.

Any agreement with DOT would also have to be approved by the Common Council.

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