Seeking to find alternatives to a new highway, La Crosse city leaders are moving to take action on a five-year-old plan to improve conditions for bicyclists and pedestrians.

Earlier this week a committee gave preliminary approval to study a redesign of West Avenue and King Street, and another committee is scheduled to vote Thursday on a resolution to release $50,000 — authorized in the 2016 capital improvements budget — to pay for directional signage on recognized bike routes and five future “neighborhood greenways.”

That’s less than 1 percent of the roughly $6 million the city is slated to spend on road construction this year.

La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat said he’s happy to see the council moving forward on active transportation even as the city prepares to sink an extra $2.5 million in reserve funds into roads next year.

“The number one priority each and every day is the accelerated street improvements,” he said. “We’re not neglecting one for the other.”

The idea behind the signs, put forth earlier this year by the city’s Bicycle-Pedestrian Advisory Committee, is to prioritize projects that can be done right away even while more politically contentious projects have to wait.

+2 
UW-L's James Longhurst

Longhurst

“Basically what this is doing is putting up signs and connecting through paint and bikeway signage to tell people how to get where they actually need to go,” said James Longhurst, an adviser to the committee. “For a lot of the infrastructure we’ve built over the last several years we haven’t done a good job of telling people where it is.”

Longhurst points to the Bud Hendrickson Bridge, a $4 million footbridge on the city’s North Side. Completed in 2015 after years of planning, the bridge is a key connector between Onalaska and La Crosse, yet many people don’t know it’s there.

“That project took decades and millions of dollars,” he said. “To go the last step and spend a little money to put some signs up is low-hanging fruit.”

+2 
West Avenue intersection design

La Crosse’s board of public works has authorized engineering designs for a proposed modification to the intersection of West Avenue and King Street that would eliminate left turns and create a pedestrian refuge. King Street is one of five proposed “bike boulevards” designed to create safe routes parallel to main thoroughfares.

King Street corridor

On Monday, the Board of Public Works authorized the city to draw up engineering plans to redesign the intersection of West Avenue and King Street, designated as a future bike boulevard.

Plans developed out of public meetings recommend installing raised medians to restrict left turns at the intersection and block automobiles cross-traffic while providing cyclists and pedestrians a refuge while crossing the four-lane highway that separates much of the city’s south side from downtown.

Only 3 to 7 percent of peak-hour traffic turns left at the intersection, according to a consultant firm’s study. Most motorists turn at the signalized intersections of Main and Cass, one block in either direction from King.

A separate study by the La Crosse Area Planning Committee found West Avenue has the highest number of bicycle and pedestrian crashes in the region. In 2011, 55-year-old Michael Stoker suffered fatal injuries when he was hit by a car while crossing at King Street.

The resolution doesn’t authorize construction, but assistant city planner Lewis Kuhlman said with engineering plans in hand, the project has a better chance to qualify for federal transportation funding that would cover 80 percent of the cost.

Council president Martin Gaul said modifying an intersection will upset some people, but the city should go forward with relatively easy and inexpensive improvements like signage.

“The more people we can get to ride bikes takes one more car off the streets,” Gaul said.

The two resolutions mark some of the city’s first real steps to implement a bicycle and pedestrian master plan that was adopted in 2012.

“We’ve checked some small things off,” said Carolyn Dvorak, La Crosse ambassador for the Wisconsin Bike Fed and an adviser to the city on active transportation. “This is really an attempt to make some significant movement.”

The plan calls for constructing seven miles of bike boulevard on portions of Avon, King Street, 17th, 22nd and Farnam streets. Construction is scheduled for later this year on 17th, which would be the city’s first.

Also known as “greenways,” bike boulevards use pavement markings and traffic-calming devices to slow motorized traffic and make a more comfortable environment for all users. They are generally recommended for low-traffic streets that run parallel to larger thoroughfares.

The bike/ped advisory committee also has recommended immediate completion of the King Street boulevard, which could be two or three years out.

+2 
Tim Kabat

Kabat

Dvorak said the recommendations were made with an eye toward improving north-south connections and reducing some rush-hour motor traffic, which has been a priority for Kabat as he seeks to avoid construction of a new highway.

The Department of Transportation has identified six potential strategies designed to improve safety and alleviate congestion on the area’s three north-south corridors. All include significant new pavement, to the consternation of neighborhood and environmental groups.

City residents blocked similar plans in a 1998 referendum, though the $138 million project remains on the state’s list of approved projects.

Kabat, who has been frustrated with the efforts of neighboring municipalities to reduce vehicle traffic and encourage alternative modes of transportation, said the city is not waiting on other entities to address the issue.

“We’re moving forward with these very viable solutions,” Kabat said. “And we’re doing it with local funds.”

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Reporter

Rhymes with Lubbock. La Crosse Tribune reporter and data geek. Covers energy, transportation and the environment, among other things. Call him at 608-791-8217.

(40) comments

Nastysmell

By the way, here is a radical idea for the North - South LaCrosse bypass road. Build it elevated right on top of the BN tracks and end it where the tracks go under the road. Done deal! A little expensive and a big project, but minimal changes to the swamp and to homeowners along the way.

Nastysmell

I think one thing has been overlooked here. Wisconsin weather only allows less than 6 months of "spandex" weather, so any expenditures at all on "spandex" friendly improvements should be cut at least in half. Yes and a $75 a year "spandex" tax is a good idea too. If you want to play, you have to pay. By the way, when was the last time you saw one of the "spandex" people smiling while riding? They all look like they are trying to win some marathon and punishing their bodies to the max.

canman

Once again a squeaky wheel group pushes their agendas and no body shows up to dispute the wackos. Then the wackos on the council and in the mayors office bend over to please them. Example: Losey blvd 25 mph, is more dangerous to drive on now than ever. If enforcement of current laws would happen, most of these squeaky wheel factions would go away and the taxpayers would be better off.

capedcrusader

Amen brother.

capedcrusader

There is a cost involved here like everything else. But, I think the goal here for everyone is safety. I'm not against bicyclists. But roads were built for cars, trucks, and motorcyclists. Taxes are used and fees are implemented for this very reason . "Pathways" are built and designed for pedestrians and bicyclists. The idea here is to get bicycles off the street especially in congested areas where they are more apt to get hit by a motor vehicle. Again, safety should be the ultimate goal here not recreation. With our ability to create "pathways" , there isn't a need to have bicyclists on most roads in the first place. This isn't Beijing were talking about here. It's already like trying to drive through a giant pin ball machine in the downtown area. Not only bicyclists do we have to watch out for but other vehicles, pedestrians, stop and go lights, signs, center islands, curbs jutting out, parklets, etc... on and on. Where does this stop so that we can get to the issue of really being about safety? It's interesting that the cost of putting in "pathways" was brought up but not much talk about bike lanes taking up parking, lines painted and signage, when most of that doesn't get used for at least half the year in our area. How many bicyclists are using all of that in the winter? Is that worth the cost? I say for the most part no. We need to keep high traffic areas safe for everyone and if more and more people have to worry about hitting bicyclists on top of everything else when they come downtown, they won't want to. It's bad enough people are concerned about parking and these "officials" are taking more parking away for things like bike lanes and parklets. There is something wrong with the people in this picture and I think I know what it is. A lack of common sense.

LAX

Actually bicycles were here long before your automobiles. Use your common sense and SHARE the road!!!

capedcrusader

We already do but your attention span isn't keeping up . And using your logic you probably want to share the interstates with bicycles to. In case you haven't noticed, it's a different world than when bicycles first got here. Roads are built for cars, trucks, and motorcycles. Not bicycles, pedestrians and parklets. Use your common sense if you have any left and realize this is a safety issue not a recreation issue.

Cassandra

Absurd arguments are always helpful, capedcrusader. SMDH

YellowBee

Since the city seems to want to cater to the bikers, I say let's make them pay a registration fee and have to get a license and OBEY the rules of the road..just like cars have too. Just the other day a saw a bicyclist ride right through a stop sign, without even looking for cars!! Make them responsible!!!!!!

Butterflies

YellowBee, I agree completely. I think they should have to pay a yearly fee for their bike license just as we car owners have to do. I also think they should have to carry their license, registration and proof of insurance with them at all times as we car owners have to. Yes, proof of insurance, they could lose control and end up hitting a car or a pedestrian or even another bike rider. They want to take over our roads, then pay for them like we have to. They don't stay in their so called bike lanes, they are in the middle of the street. I also have seen them right stop signs, cut in front of cars, etc. They want to ride on the streets, pay for everything like we have to.

LAX

We already pay registration fees for use of the road -- plus gas tax, property tax and everything you pay and probably more. Not to mention sales tax on the bicycle! And BTW, get off your d_mn Ipad and phone while driving before you kill somebody! Nitwit...

HonestAbe

LAX, as much as you hate vehicles (obvious in your posts), you're saying you still own one? I really doubt it. We all pay sales tax, property tax and the like .... we also pay registration of $75/year as well as gas and insurance. Fair is fair, pay your share!
You could also just take the bus, they're going to burn the fuel if you're on it or not, then you could avoid the bicycle tax, registration, and insurance. :)
Have a nice day.

Butterflies

LAX, I really doubt that a bicycle rider pays "probably more" in taxes, registration fee, insurance than someone that drives a car. I agree about staying off the phone while driving. I personally will not use my phone if I'm driving. I have had a very close family member be the victim of a hit and run accident and was very seriously hurt because some moron was on her phone while driving. I would love to see stiff fines put in place for drivers that use their phone while they are driving. Please don't start calling names right away. BTW, stay in your own lane instead of in the middle of the road.

ElPresidente

I think the point is that people that ride bikes own cars, motorcyles, boats, buses, trucks, ATVs, homes, buy items that are taxable. So yes, it is possible a bike rider pays more taxes than you specifically.

ElPresidente

But bikers don't pay taxes... Everybody on here thinks that apparently.

HonestAbe

ElP...any taxes bicyclists pay ... so do vehicle owners. Mutes the argument.
The only difference is that vehicle owners must have a drives license, registration and insurance. Fair is fair ... you want special treatment, fine, but why should my check to "REGISTRATION FEE TRUST" pay for your pet projects!?!
If you want to use the roads, pay to play. It's about paying for signs, lines and man hours to implement ..... your pet project. "But my bicycle doesn't hurt the road" ... neither does my car!! I have the same rubber wheels you do lol. You have to cut a check to the FEE TRUST to pay for what I mentioned above.
As well, I'd like to see that implemented to take care of what was proposed for the city as a "wheel tax". So, pay the DMV registration so you can get an "in-city" road permit, then pay the city treasurer for a "in-city" sticker. This will help pay for road improvements for bikes.
You want all these provisions, but are not willing to pay ... aint how it works buddy.

ElPresidente

Believe it or not, cars do the same thing...

DaisyL

Wonder if Martin Gaul rides a bike to work. Too much overkill for bike travel when a side street can easily be accessed. One would think the regular streets as they are nothing but ruts would be a priority over worrying about reconfiguring streets for bike travel.

Travis422

I want to know what all these biker are doing for work, from what I see most jobs require you to bring things to work or travel throughout the day. Or am I wrong?

ElPresidente

I could see where you get the idea that people must travel throughout the day, because when I take a day off from work and see all the traffic, I wonder if anyone has a job in this town. Seriously though, most jobs don't require travel I would think and I'd think the most "things" people are bringing to work is their lunch. I would think more of an issue is not getting all sweaty and gross in your nice suit or dress. That would stop me from riding my bike to work.

LAX

What's it to you whether or not I work? How about you? Or do you sit around posting nonsense all day?

hrpufnstuf

Thanks Buggs. Your problem solving remarks should be commended.

Buggs Raplin

I'm thinking nuclear war for Putin's meddling with our traffic problems. C'mon Trump, launch the missiles.

Tim Russell

Anybody that attempts to turn left off of King on to West is an idiot.

Buggs Raplin

This is, of course, Putin's fault. He's meddling. Again.

Tim Russell

Sorry Comrade but your hero Vlad is not involved in this.

Buggs Raplin

That's not what 17 intelligence agencies say....

Tim Russell

I object to you ever using the word "intelligence".

Only1Green

Why is this even necessary? I get that they want a safe intersection to cross West Ave but is it even really needed. West Ave is sick with stop lights i.e. controlled intersections. Why can a cyclist not simply go one block over from their less traveled street to the controlled intersection street and then go one block back over. Problem solved. No money spent, unless they want to pay me for the idea, I'd even only take half.
By the way Caped, never change you ID picture...awesome!

capedcrusader

Thank You!

Buggs Raplin

[batman]

HonestAbe

There's a solution for the "wheel tax" ... bicycles that want to use paved roads in town should have to pay for a bicycle sticker that renews every year.
I mean, even if we want to use the old rail beds, which provides scenic leisure riding, you still have to even pay a nominal $5 or so fee to peddle on them. Only seems right if we have to spend for extra crews, paint and signs for these vehicle haters ... they pay their fair share. [thumbup]

LAX

Most cyclist own a car or two and already pay taxes and gas taxes and property taxes and sales tax on the bicycles. Our bikes create absolutely no wear on the road compared to your fat pig polluting accident causing automobiles!

HonestAbe

People that ride on scenic trails as well own vehicles, ... trail heads have PARKING LOTS. Then you go and BUY a tag so you may legally ride ON THE TRAIL.
Your argument doesn't work ... pay to play. Man hours, paint, signs, time coddling the spandex warriors all costs money ... as well, you could congest traffic and put others in danger. What's $20 / year to bike, vs the gas saved ... you're still ahead.

LAX

More money, taxes and time are spent coddling fat, polluting auto, truck and SUV drivers than has ever been spent for bicycles... I don't care to ride on a boring traisl and I have a right to use any street or road Iwish to use.. Trying to compare the costs of promoting bicycles to the expense of autos is ridiculous...

HonestAbe

In todays world of distracted drivers, maybe we should be encouraging bicycles to take less traveled roads, and put in a little painted line so they know where to be. Shouldn't take painted lines to show bikes where to peddle safely, but .... if it will satisfy their life commitment to make a difference, ok.

No matter how many signs and lines you put in, West Ave is the last place you'd catch me riding a bike in the street. Would you trust your child to ride it alone and feel safe?
Well, Johnny has that little white line protecting him and has his helmet and knee pads on, so all is good, right? WRONG

Find other routes that have straight shots for the bikers ... they'll still hit stop lights or stop signs no matter what route ... and the point is safety first.

capedcrusader

“The more people we can get to ride bikes takes one more car off the streets,” Gaul said.

And the sooner you get to building "pathways" the sooner we can get more bicycles off the streets. We have miles of barely used sidewalks and on at least one side of the street they could be replaced by a pathway that is designed for bikes, skaters, and pedestrians. That would make it safer for Pedestrians AND for drivers who have plenty to watch out for already. The goal here should be safety not recreation. Keep your eye on the ball and the big picture .

HonestAbe

Well said caped.
Are they really striving for safety ... or visibility on their quest for road domination?

LAX

Nitwit...

Deadwood subscriber

How much do you think it will cost to convert sidewalks to multi-use path/greenways? I'll bet a lot more than adding signage.

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