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Wauwatosa schedules North Avenue repaving project for summer

One driving lane in each direction, no turning lanes are among the features

Dec. 11, 2013

A detailed plan for a resurfaced North Avenue — with a new bike lane, three pedestrian islands, improved crosswalks, more street-side parking, and a state of the art traffic-actuated signal at 68th Street — sailed through a public hearing and was unanimously approved by the Traffic and Safety Committee this week.

The $1 million repaving project will be undertaken this summer, possibly after the East Tosa Gran Prix bike race in late June, said Public Works Director William Porter.

A primary stated goal of the project — to slow traffic — is designed to complement a commercial renaissance on the east end of North Avenue, which has drawn the interest of restaurateurs and small businesses.

"Sometimes it's not all about moving traffic," Alderman Dennis McBride said. "I know that we all drive cars and we want to get where we want to get, but we have these important commercial thoroughfares like North Avenue, and sometimes it's important to slow people down so you're not running over a child ..., but also you slow down and take a look at what's there and you see a restaurant you haven't seen before."

The project offers something for drivers as well. It will remove the chicanes, which many who use North Avenue passionately hate, and will allow left turns not just at alternating intersections, but at every intersection.

While left-turn lanes themselves will be missing, potentially backing up traffic, consultant Ken Voigt of Ayers Associates said that an Ayers study predicts that, even at the busiest travel times, gaps in the traffic stream will allow left turns with only slight backups.

The new road will have just one lane of traffic in each direction, with 11-foot-wide driving lanes — a bus with its side mirrors measures 10 feet 2 inches across — eight-foot-wide parking lanes, and five-foot-wide bike lanes on either side, Voigt said.

The city will trim the bump-outs at the corners to accommodate the bike lanes, and will add "bikers' boxes" at the lights at 68th And 76th streets, to make left turns by bikers safer.

Green pedestrian islands will be placed at 64th Street, and 72nd and 73rd streets, according to the plans. At the corner of 73rd, an important school-crossing intersection, flashing lights will be added, like the lights at the corner of 90th and North, to increase safety.

The pedestrian islands will be oblong pads, but not full curbs. Alderman Jason Wilke argued that full-size curbs offer greater safety to those waiting in the middle of the street, but city engineer Bob Kelly said such an obstruction would make for an impossible turning radius, especially for trucks.

Wilke and resident Ed Haydin argued in favor of white bar-striping at crosswalks, instead of the planned red. Kelly said the red would be effective, even at night.

Alderman Jeff Roznowski praised the plan as a boost to commerce, pedestrians and bikers.

"This is one of the many reasons people are coming to Wauwatosa," he said.

Plans can be viewed at the city's website, Wauwatosa.net.

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