Plan to narrow city streets irks Port residents

But despite concerns about impeding traffic, board OKs project designed to slow traffic, protect pedestrians
Ozaukee Press staff

Despite concerns by the public about the narrowing of their roads during next summer’s street projects, the Port Washington Board of Public Works agreed Tuesday to go ahead with the project as planned.

The streets are 35 feet wide right now, and all will be narrowed, the board agreed.

The streets being reconstructed are West Monroe Street between Wisconsin Street and Nelson Drive; Nelson Drive from West Whitefish Road to West James Drive; North Benjamin Street from West Whitefish Road to West Monroe Street; and North Webster Street form West Whitefish Road to West Monroe Street.

The 100 block of Monroe Street is the only exception. It will remain the current width, in part because it has a higher traffic count and is just off Wisconsin Street.

Nelson Drive will be narrowed to 32 feet, the board agreed, and the other streets to 29 feet.

Brian McCutcheon, 1203 Nelson Drive, told the board that his street, which is near Lincoln Elementary School, should not be narrowed. During the school year, he said, there “are tons of cars parking on Nelson for events, to pick up children.”

During the summer, he added, the street is filled with people heading to Kolbach Park.

“I just think narrowing that road is not a good thing to do,” McCutcheon said. “I don’t understand the justification. It is a very heavily used road for school and activities in Kolbach Park.”

While McCutcheon was the only resident to appear before the board, five others wrote letters expressing concerns about narrowing the streets.

“We value safety, navigability and convenience over any maintenance savings narrow streets may provide,” David and Mary Defenbaugh, 1011 Webster St., wrote. “We have witnessed the difficulty narrower streets impose on ambulance, delivery vehicles, school buses and moving/storage vehicles.”

Steve and Judy Klumb, 330 W. Monroe St., wrote that twice this year they have not been able to drive down the previously narrowed portion of Benjamin Street when large vehicles have been parked on both sides of the roadway.

“We had to back up and turn around. That is unacceptable,” they wrote. “West Monroe Street is a fairly busy street that needs your consideration to increase it wider than 29 feet.”

Public Works Director Rob Vanden Noven said that traffic on the 100 block of Monroe Street averaged 623 vehicles a day, while the 400 block Monroe Street averaged 163 vehicles a day. Traffic in the 1100 block of Benjamin Street averages 228 vehicles, while the 1200 block of Nelson averages 175 vehicles daily.

“They’re quite low,” he said.

Vanden Noven noted that since 1999, the city has recommended narrowing the roads it rebuilds to help slow traffic and increase pedestrian safety because walkers are farther from traffic and have less roadway to traverse when crossing the street.

“Whenever pedestrians feel safer, it promotes walkability,” Vanden Noven said.

Narrower streets also reduce stormwater runoff, increase the ability to store snow on expanded parkways and create a better environment for trees in the parkway to flourish and create a canopy of trees along the roadway, he said.

Narrower streets also typically cost 3% less to rebuild, he said, are 19% less expensive to resurface, patch and fill cracks and take 33% less time to plow.

“The streets are for everyone,” Vanden Noven said. “They’re not just for vehicles.”

Ald. John Sigwart, a member of the board, asked why the 100 block of Monroe and Nelson Drive were not recommended to be narrowed as much as the other streets.

Vanden Noven said he consulted with Police Captain Craig Czarnecki, who recommended Monroe Street remain its current width because of the number of vehicles that park on both sides of the road and its proximity to Wisconsin Street.

Czarnecki said he believed 32 feet was appropriate for Nelson Drive given the amount of parking and traffic, Vanden Noven added.


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