A 90-day trial allowing parking on the south side of North Avenue from Ludington Avenue to 91st Street will be extended to better evaluate safety concerns, pending a traffic study for the west end of North Avenue.
Following review of the initial 90-day trial, instituted in December, the Traffic and Safety Committee on Tuesday decided it should be extended for an additional 90 days, and urged Public Works Director William Porter to prioritize funding a traffic study along North Avenue from Wauwatosa Avenue to Menomonee River Parkway.
Porter said the city intends to proceed with identifying funding for the study beginning in April.
In the meantime, staff has received feedback from the Police Department on traffic congestion and accident issues that have occurred along the trial stretch of North Avenue since December.
Lt. Tim Sharpee said the Police Department is concerned about how the parking on the south side of the street has impacted traffic and pedestrian safety.
"We believe by allowing parking there, you now have another obstacle that will cover a pedestrian, and that safe cross just isn't there anymore at some of the intersections," Sharpee said, noting that the problem likely could be exacerbated by bicycle traffic during summer months.
Pavement markings, which the city should be able to install once the weather warms up, could help address those concerns, Porter said.
Alternately, District 6 Alderman Jeff Roznowski said he has received positive feedback on the parking from local businesses as well as a Safe Routes to School committee at McKinley Elementary.
For those crossing from the south side of the street on the way to school, Roznowski said, the addition of parking has increased pedestrian safety by preventing vehicles from passing on the right.A lighted crosswalk sign in the area also has worked well, he added.
However, District 1 Alderman Jim Moldenhauer expressed concerns about driver confusion related to the lighted crosswalk and whether drivers are expected to slow down or stop when the lights are flashing.
Sharpee said the light is intended to serve as a warning to drivers that a pedestrian is preparing to cross.
"It's still the pedestrian's responsibility to wait until there's a break a traffic, so that you can safely get into the crosswalk, what I call 'owning the crosswalk,' and then drivers have to be able to safely yield," Sharpee said. "What you can't do is dart into traffic just because you're a pedestrian in a marked crosswalk."
The department regularly conducts crosswalk enforcement with vehicles during the summer, Sharpee said, as well as education with pedestrians and bicyclists.
District 8 Alderman Jason Wilke suggested parking might be more utilized if it started just east of the Alterra driveway, rather than east of 91st Street, which is not as visible.
Keeping the street lighted
Moldenhauer also suggested that the street lighting in the area be evaluated to ensure that the stretch is well-lighted, especially during the early evening hours.
When the street is fully parked, Sharpee said the addition of parking does serve as an effective traffic calming technique. It is when there are gaps in the parking, however, that problems occur, he said.
"That's when cars become very aggressive and serpentine down North Avenue … which can lead to head-on collisions, which are significant accidents that we're concerned about, especially in weather like this," he said.
Sharpee told staff to pay particular attention during the continuation of the trial to when the street is fully parked up to allow for the calming of traffic as intended.
The issue will return to the Traffic & Safety Committee for further review after 90 days.
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