A design firm’s preliminary vision for a reconstructed South Avenue includes a slower speed limit, no left turns, four roundabouts, more greenery, more lights, well-marked crosswalks and wider sidewalks.

Leading concerns voiced by residents at a public forum Tuesday evening at Central High School focused on those roundabouts — how to drive, walk and bicycle through them.

The question of property acquisition also arose, but those answers will need to come from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, which will host a similar public forum in July.

Tuesday’s meeting was about developing design preferences for the city to present to WisDOT as the state agency draws up reconstruction plans for a mile-long strip of South Avenue from Green Bay Street to Ward Avenue.

The two efforts are related, but separate. The city hired Toole Design Group to take into account the surrounding neighborhoods in developing a recommendation for how the state reconstructs the road. The state’s focus is more narrowly on rebuilding the road and making it safer.

The state will be using a funding stream that requires making the road safer, Jason Gilman, La Crosse director of planning, said as he opened the Tuesday meeting.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation has given the city a set of plan alternatives from which to build its recommendations.

Kevin Luecke of Toole Design Group, the project manager, presented the firm’s draft recommendation. The group backs, with modifications, WisDOT’s alternative that for the most part does not widen the roadway, but adds roundabouts at West Avenue, 16th Street and East Avenue. Continuous center medians would eliminate all left turns.

A key modification is a fourth roundabout at 14th Avenue, so residents living south of South Avenue would not be forced to drive convoluted routes through their neighborhood to access the avenue. This will add cost to the plan and require more property acquisition, Luecke said.

Recommendations regarding bicycle issues included wider sidewalks where possible and a “well-signed” bicycle route on streets close to the river.

The project also provides the opportunity for a path extension of Bennora Lee Court and a new path along the railroad tracks between Ward and Weston streets, Luecke said, although he acknowledged working with the railroad on projects like this can be “challenging.”

The firm addressed pedestrian issues by recommending high-visibility crosswalks, markings, signs and flashing beacons to highlight crossings.

Regarding traffic issues, Toole Design Group suggests posting a preferred speed limit of 25 mph but no more than 30 mph and considering using radar boards to show motorists their speed. It also calls for narrowing the inside lanes from 10.5 to 10 feet to slow motorists by making them feel constrained.

Toole Design Group said the continuous center medians should be made with mountable curbs to address worries about limiting emergency vehicle access.

Regarding aesthetics along the stretch, Toole Design recommends designing attractive roundabouts, possibly placing a gateway feature in the roundabouts at Ward and East avenues, and providing attractive pedestrian-scale street lighting and landscaping along South Avenue.

The South Avenue Steering Committee working with Toole Design on the plan to present to WisDOT includes neighborhood representatives Francis Fomanek and Michael Richards, business representative Mary Kessens and Common Council members Martin Gaul, Paul Medinger and Phillip Ostrem.

Participant of the first public meeting for this project were asked to vote on their top concerns. Speeding vehicles and the problem of pedestrians and bicyclists crossing South Avenue were the top issues.

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(40) comments

HonestAbe

Reality of roundabouts. The future of LaCrosse ::
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iAgX6qlJEMc

canman

Roundabouts and traffic circles are a dam$ joke. They are increasing in popularity by designers because they are cheaper and easier to build then proper traffic control systems and then the maintenance costs and drivability issues become the locals problems. I travel for work all over and have found only a handful that work as advertised. Another consideration is the massive amount of land needed to build these pipe dreams. Isn't La Crosse suffering from lack of taxable property?

Pettyfogger

"The state will be using a funding stream that requires making the road safer, Jason Gilman, La Crosse director of planning, said as he opened the Tuesday meeting." This is the inevitable 'stick' the state uses every time. Go ahead, committee up, lobby, demonstrate the efficiency of your plan and then stand back as Ma DOT ignores it while thanking you for your input.
ROUNDABOUTS SUCK. They are property eating, demonstrably inefficient means of traffic control UNLESS nobody involved minds diddling around at a hugely reduced speed, and (as in this case, with multiple lanes involved and wildly mixed traffic) a constant game of blind man's bluff, attempting to guess what everyone else is about to do. Imagine mixing motorcycle traffic with a variety of cars and pickups plus semis of up to eighty feet in length that manage to block vision of the still amateur signage that decorates roundabout sites. Now imagine the 40-50 days a year of near-blinding rain or snow storms and rotten roads and multiply that by traffic slowing to make this road an 16 hour a day rush hour scene. Finally, as someone with a bit of actual experience in the matter, be aware that roundabouts are hands-down the most hated idea ever foisted on road crews everywhere. Clearing a roundabout means almost stopping traffic for an extended period of time as crews do a repeated dance to get snow out or ice treated-ask anyone with the background what a time consuming job it is. Then ask yourself how many businesses on South Avenue will just fold their tent and walk away; engineered out of business by dolts with planning degrees who see those jobs and tax base as green space to be taken for their next playground. Good luck.

stopit1

Driving through round abouts is easy. Since these are new, why can't the city or DOT offer some driving classes on how to drive correctly. People should have videos available to view. Roundabouts are much safer, keep traffic flowing, and significantly less injuries. Roundabouts are here to stay. Let's move forward!

HonestAbe

How these roundabouts will look in 20 years; http://bit.ly/2twUZTI

Daune

The story about the roundabouts talks about helping the ''pedestrians". No one on here has even mentioned ''pedestrians'' in their comments! How about the council or whomever is considering this, go to a roundabout in Madison and be a ''pedestrian" and see how ''easy'' it is for them to walk through a roundabout when you have traffic pretty much constantly going whizzing past and around you in a roundabout! NOT happening, so, what do they plan to do with the ''pedestrians'' when their is FOUR roundabouts for the pedestrians to ''walk'' through? If you have ever driven though one of those, tell us just how ''many'' pedestrians you have seen attempting to get through one> I bet the answer is NEVER say even one!

kingman10

I have no problem with round abouts. I can navigate them with ease, so can most drivers. They are so much safer than lights. Just look at that accident by Woodmans the other day. That woman's life would of most likely been saved if that intersection was a roundabout instead. Slower speeds and no t-bone crashes results in a much safer driving experience. No one is trying to step on the gas to beat the light from turning red.

HonestAbe

first, you can't even spell "roundabout" ... and these roundabouts will need traffic lights in years to come, so it solves not one thing. http://bit.ly/2twUZTI

Comment deleted.
ScottRAB

Modern roundabouts are designed for trucks, large vehicles, and trailer towing vehicles by including the center flat area around the circle. It’s not a sidewalk, it’s called a truck apron, and it’s for trucks to begin a sharp right or end a left or U-turn on.

Roundabout Trucks Videos:
STAA, Porterville, CA: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3zPsUisOz_c&t=6s
FHWA: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0nVzsC2fOQw
Washington County, WI: http://tinyurl.com/trucksRABwi
U-turn: http://tinyurl.com/rabtruckuturn
Windsor-Essex Parkway, Canada: http://tinyurl.com/windsoressexRAB
WSDOT simulation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JI0L2AolOCQ

let it go

Were not in Kansas anymore. We are being overrun by flying monkeys and a man who thinks he is the all and powerful Wizard.

LesTrafik

A single (full or partial) 2-lane roundabout-- if constructed and new to a region-- presents a whole new level of challenges and conflicts for all types of traffic not seen with 1-lane roundabouts where far fewer truck-, pedestrian- related conflicts etc are present (hence the required additional non-roundabout pedestrian treatments). Now imagine 4 of them installed at the same time. Ideally, they should install one, then the remaining three after a few years of driver habituation-- but they won't because of the funding constraints-- which entirely defeats their purpose of "safety".
-----
I certainly don't think the entire median needs to be "mountable"

Enough with the "gateway" effect already. There is no 'gateway' when you're already inside the city.

LesTrafik

In a perfect world, I could support the solution being proposed, not just for the traffic (pedestrians are traffic) but for the future general health of that region.

But here's the thing: I believe it's possible to achieve nearly the same "safety" and operational results through other "convoluted" means as those being proposed, but with less property takes and no (zero) roundabouts. It would take a little imagination and buy-in from the rest of the surrounding community.

ScottRAB

People using the road make mistakes, always have and always will. Crashes will always be with us, but they need not result in fatalities or serious injury. Modern roundabouts change the speed and geometry of one of the most dangerous parts of the system - intersections. The reduction in speed and sideswipe geometry mean that, more often than not, when a crash happens you usually need a tow truck, not an ambulance. The life saved may be your own.

LesTrafik

The geometry of the non-roundabout design that am referring to does the same thing-- controls the approach speed and the speeds throughout (which roundabouts don't do), reduces conflict points at intersections. Roundabouts aren't the only thing that does this. Curious if you are the roundabout liaison from DOT central office. That would help explain your fixation on them.

let it go

Round a bouts in the City of La Crosse is like the Ten Commandments. Nobody knows they exist until there is a fuss over them. Also, what is it with putting up barriers to eliminate left hand turns? Next they will close off driveways and stores will close like Burger King. The DOT will pay to relocate McDonalds and Good Steward at the taxpayers expense. I would love to have a proposal to slow the traffic on George St to 25 MPH and no passing. Just put in more stop lights. Wait, who pays the electric bill to run these stop lights. And let's add a fountain somewhere since you felt letting the water run on corner drink fountains was a waste. Face it.

DaisyL

Totally agree with "Butterflies." Only thing I would add to this is to start to illiminate the streets with adequate lighting. Crime certainly has gone down in this community and walking any of the side streets is like walking into a cave. The city lights just don't illuminate anything but a small circle on the pavement from where they stand.

LaCrosseCampers

Maybe we could just turn South Avenue & Mormon Coulee Road into a bike and hiking path, and route vehicles around La Crosse via the Minnesota side?

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HonestAbe

Well said ... why the hell are they trying to slow everything down?
There must be some female behind this blowing everyone for their vote.
Put this up to a referendum or scrap it!!!

HonestAbe

What would make more sense is to put in an overhead viaduct for South Avenue right over that intersection and increase the speed to match the 40mph on MCR. Why are you trying to clusterflop traffic?!? We get a plethora of new students every fall, along with their parents, and none of them can figure our streets out now. One thing this article doesn't touch on is why this is needed. And the cherry on top .... stealing peoples' land to do this through the DOT? pathetic

HonestAbe

What's up with this fetish of roundabouts?!? What's the need?
If it's to "do away with street lights" ... well, in bigger cities, roundabouts need lights as well, spend the money on just making nicer roads overall.
No left turns where West Ave meets S.Ave what a dumb idea.

ScottRAB

Modern roundabouts are the safest form of intersection in the world - the intersection type with the lowest risk of fatal or serious injury crashes - (much more so than comparable signals). Visit the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety for modern roundabout FAQs and safety facts. Modern roundabouts, and the pedestrian refuge islands approaching them, are two of nine proven safety measures identified by the FHWA.

HonestAbe

Well, if you have kept up to date with problems around here, traffic flow is a huge problem, so ... why do we need these to slow traffic?
We need solutions to help increase speed with less lights !?!
How it will look in 20 years; http://bit.ly/2twUZTI

Stupid idea for this valley where many HIGHWAYS flow through.

I don't hate progress ... but only when it's done with the populous in mind and involved (vote on it). Not pet projects that have not been voted on by the people that will be stuck using them.

Now, when you come down 7th St to Cass ... if you want to turn towards the bridge, you have to take a right turn and play marry-go-round to go around 3/4ths of the stupid traffic control thing to get where you're going.

Some people say they "take getting used to" ... in other words, once they're put in place and there's nothing anyone can do, people have to use them and you stop hearing complaints. Doesn't mean they get used to them.

This will create increased traffic on alternate routes, I for one will go out of my way to avoid these things.

Butterflies

How asinine is the City going to be? What a cluster f*** this will turn into. South Ave is a 4 lane highway that is a major thoroughfare for all traffic. What about emergency vehicles trying to get to the hospitals? What about the truck drivers that will have to try and maneuver around these God awful things. What about the tax paying homes and business that will be demolished for this? What about our City workers trying to plow snow during the Winter? Has anyone with a brain in their head actually thought this thing through? Enough with these idiotic roundabouts that no one in this City seems to want. Fix the dam* streets, coordinate the traffic lights, and for once in your lives, use some common sense. Whoever on the City Council or anyone else in office that votes for this should be voted out of their offices.

ElPresidente

Everytime I sit at a traffic light when there is zero cross traffic I dream about roundabouts... Guess I'm the one person that enjoys moving while in my car.

HonestAbe

ElP, everything would be a snails pace at peak times. If you really want to "keep moving", take a right turn, then a left turn, then a right turn and pretend you just went through a roundabout .... cost;;; $0.
Have a nice day.

ElPresidente

Everyone complains about traffic moving so slowly and yet want to keep traffic lights at every intersection... How much do traffic lights cost anyway? How much does it cost to install/repair them after someone knocks them down? How does traffic flow during power outages? Seriously, how much do lights cost?

oldhomey

Abe, honestly, bear with me for a moment. One of my pet peeves about driving is when I am on a road with two lanes going in the same direction and it is cut down to one lane for construction. I get into the continuous lane immediately, but other &!!#%*#! drivers remain in the disappearing lane until they are at the front, nudging into the continuous lane at the last moment. They get many, many car lengths ahead of me, but, because they are nudging in at the last moment, they bring the continuous lane to a dead stop, slowing everybody else down. If everybody merged into the continuous lane as soon after seeing the first merge sign as practicable, the continuous lane would never stop, making the whole exercise easier, faster and safer for everybody. That is the concept around the roundabouts, as well. They have been working for many, many decades in Europe, and there is not hue and cry about their relative safety and efficiency. They work as designed.

ScottRAB

Modern, slow and go, roundabout intersections have less daily delay than a stop light or stop sign, especially the other 20 hours a day people aren’t driving to or from work (it’s the #2 reason they’re built). Average daily delay at a signal is around 12 seconds per car. At a modern roundabout average delay is less than five seconds. Signals take an hour of demand and restrict it to a half hour, at best only half the traffic gets to go at any one time. At a modern roundabout drivers entering from different directions can all enter at the same time. Don’t try that with a signalized intersection.
Mythbusters http://tinyurl.com/mythbustersRAB

vindicator

@ Old Homey. Actually the "zipper" method is the preferred way to merge into one lane of traffic. The people your pissed at are doing it the correct way.

Veridic

That's because the lights are poorly timed. How much money would it take to change the times on the lights? Don't you think it would be much less expensive than round abouts.

ElPresidente

Lights that change when a vehicle arrives at an intersection can not be "timed", right?

LesTrafik

Yes and no. It's possible that by reconfiguring the traffic flow and increasing the number of 'abbreviated' traffic signals under the existing roadway width you could achieve a similar result to what is being proposed. Mind you those pedestrian crossings being proposed could be fully signalized one day.

LesTrafik

I agree but the day is coming when those pedestrian flashers at midblock crossings (and even at the roundabout legs themselves) have the potential to be become fully signalized, and then become abused or misused by pedestrians, or malfunction in inclement weather which they so often do. The potential is there.

ElPresidente

I'll answer my own question... From WI DOT... It costs the taxpayer $250,000 to $500,000 to purchase and install a traffic signal. Electric bills and routine maintenance amount to about $8,000 a year.

LesTrafik

Those routine maintenance & electrical costs are outdated and will drop significantly within the next few years with advances in technology in development. Same goes for installation which generally include the cost of lane upgrades... so not quite a fair comparison with roundabouts in this case.

ScottRAB

Present Value Life Cycle Cost Analysis (LCCA) is the best way to compare two or more choices. When comparing modern roundabouts to signals for a 20-year life cycle (the standard period), modern roundabouts usually cost less. Costs to compare include: first cost (design/land/construction), operation and maintenance (electricity, re-striping, upgrades, etc.), crash reduction (what’s your/your family’s safety worth?), daily delay (what’s your time worth?), daily fuel consumption (spend much on gas?), point source pollution (generated by stopped vehicles = health cost), area insurance rates (this costs more where it is less safe to drive). Each of these things, and others, can be estimated for any two choices and everyone near or using the project area will pay some portion of all of these costs (and also gain benefits).

LesTrafik

Frankly I'm not worried about the experienced truck drivers themselves. The main concern is regional drivers adapting to truck-related conflicts that will most assuredly ensue-- this is not an easy challenge to overcome with roundabouts after the fact.

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