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Sidewalks removed from Wisconsin Ave. plans

Left-turn lanes a source of argument

Oct. 10, 2012

Zoo Interchange planners showed up at a city committee meeting Tuesday asking to remove a required sidewalk from plans to beef up the intersection at Wisconsin Avenue and Mayfair Road.

They got what they wanted, and more.

The Community Development Committee agreed to make an exception to remove the sidewalk, and told the representatives from the Department of Transportation that the two-lane left turn planned for Wisconsin onto Mayfair was unacceptable as well.

Residents along what is now a quiet neighborhood of houses on Wisconsin Avenue and its sidestreets depend on curbside parking on Wisconsin. DOT plans for the intersection include two left-turn lanes for southbound cars on Mayfair onto a wide Wisconsin Avenue, and two left-turn lanes from the avenue onto southbound Mayfair.

At present, the intersection doesn't even have a stoplight. It will have one when the dust has settled.

By removing the sidewalk, the DOT officials said they could preserve parking on the south side of Wisconsin. But not for Ruth Heimler, who lives too close to the intersection to benefit from the tapering lanes that would allow parking.

She said the plans would eat up half her yard, and "I can't get out of the drive without a free lane."

She and other residents weren't mollified by a DOT offer to create a turning pad on her property. "If it doesn't work out, I don't know, I may have to find a lawyer," she said.

Alderman Greg Walz-Chojacki said a stoplight at the corner would be "an order of magnitude better than what we have now," but wondered why two left-turn lanes were required for traffic heading west on Wisconsin, which is not a heavily traveled road. He suggested that the DOT was planning for increased traffic during the construction period, and that it wouldn't continue to be heavy after the interchange and its associated projects were done.

Alderman Tim Hanson asked the committee to require the second lane to be removed when the detours were no longer required.

Wafa Elqaq of the DOT and Tim Anheuser of the consultant group Forward 45, said that without two left-turn lanes on both Wisconsin and Mayfair, cars turning left would back up into through-traffic lanes and interfere with the light cycles to be installed at intersections along Mayfair.

Alderman Dennis McBride said he is sick of DOT requests.

"Every time you come here you upset me to no end," he said.

He said the project was turning Mayfair Road into a highway, and Wisconsin Avenue was headed for the same fate.

"I'm 100 percent opposed to dual turn lanes on Wisconsin Avenue."

He moved to allow the sidewalk exception, and eliminate the second Wisconsin Avenue turn lane, and the committee vote was unanimous.

Whether a city committee change can force a change in design is a question yet to be answered.

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