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Wauwatosa, DOT skirmish over design of Wisconsin Avenue and Mayfair Road

Intersection with Mayfair has residents upset

Oct. 31, 2012

The City of Wauwatosa and the Department of Transportation have crept closer to an agreement on the design of the intersection of Wisconsin Avenue and Mayfair Road, despite a skirmish over the meaning of a city resolution on the matter.

Department of Public Works Director Bill Porter said the framework of an agreement would likely include a single left-turn lane from Wisconsin Avenue onto southbound Mayfair Road, and no sidewalk on the south side of Wisconsin, both of which were features demanded by the city to make room for a parking lane and to preserve the character of Wisconsin Avenue, which, compared to Mayfair, is lightly traveled.

The design also would include two left-turn lanes from southbound Mayfair onto eastbound Wisconsin, with an understanding that the need for two lanes there would be reconsidered at some point when traffic volume has stabilized.

DOT Project Manager Bill Mohr said last week the department had submitted options to the city, and Porter said this week he was still considering them.

Changing the intersection of Wisconsin and Mayfair is a small part of the expansive Zoo Interchange project, which is affecting intersections all along the Highway 100 corridor.

Tension over the design of the intersection peaked at a Traffic & Safety Committee meeting three weeks ago, when DOT planners appeared before the panel to seek an exception to the requirement that rebuilt roads must have sidewalks. Removing sidewalks from the plan would allow residents in the neighborhood to retain a lane for parking, which they did not want to lose.

A number of residents attended the meeting, as did their aldermen, Tim Hanson and Gregory Walz-Chojnacki.

Alderman Dennis McBride, a committee member, angrily denounced the DOT for having taken "step after step after step to turn Mayfair Road into a freeway," and said they seemed determined to widen Wisconsin Avenue in the same way.

He moved, as video of the meeting shows, to not allow a sidewalk to be built on the south side of Wisconsin, and to allow only "one left-turn lane on Wisconsin Avenue to and from Highway 100," which is Mayfair Road. The motions was recorded as allowing just one left-turn lane on Wisconsin Avenue, without reference to the Mayfair lanes, which is what McBride confirmed that he meant. The vote was unanimous. The Common Council approved the same measure.

Members of the audience, however, said they believed the motion was to allow only one left-turn lane on both Wisconsin and Mayfair.

"We were all there, at that meeting, and we were kind of caucusing outside the meeting afterward, and everyone was practically giddy at the idea that Wauwatosa stood up to the DOT," said Tom Schultz, who lives in the 10600 block of West Wisconsin Avenue. "I was not expecting that much."

He and other residents said they believed McBride's motion had restricted both roads to one left-turn lane. "He said, one left-turn lane to and from Wisconsin Avenue on Mayfair Road," Schultz said.

Schultz's neighbor, Jon Frey, heard it the same way.

"That's what they talked about throughout the whole discussion there," he said. "Everybody in the room left that meeting under the impression that all the left turn lanes were going to be reduced down to one."

Hanson, who represents the residents, said he is angry the motion was not what it seemed.

"I'm still stuck on the fact that there was a motion made and it was not that motion any more," he said. "That's the part that's (bothering) me. … In the sense of government being clean, that doesn't look very clean to me."

Hanson said what McBride intended was less important than what he said.

"That motion wasn't stated like that, and … what his intentions were, that's not of concern to me, as much as what he said and how he said it, and how it gets changed over is the part that's troubling to me, after the fact. There was plenty of people in that room that thought it went the other way," Hanson said.

McBride wouldn't comment beyond saying that his motion was recorded as he intended it.

City Attorney Alan Kesner said Wisconsin Avenue is a city street, and so is affected by council action. Mayfair Road is a state highway, outside of city control, so even if the motion had included the Mayfair lanes, it would not have been enforceable.

"I know that," Hanson said, "but what it affects, though, is our constituents' thoughts of our city and how we run things. That doesn't look good that a motion comes through and then it gets changed."

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