With construction already behind schedule, a group of French Island residents wants to block a decade-old plan to reconfigure lanes on Clinton Street to make it safer for kids to bike to and from school.

More than 100 people packed the Black River Beach neighborhood center Monday night where city and county officials faced boos and scoffs as they outlined the history and details of the plan, which calls for reducing a ¾-mile stretch between Bainbridge and Caledonia streets from four lanes to three, with dedicated bike lanes in either direction and a center turn lane.

A joint venture of La Crosse County and the city of La Crosse, the $81,000 federally-funded project was developed through the county’s Health Department’s Safe Routes to School program, which seeks to address growing rates of obesity and diabetes by making it safer for children to walk or bike to and from school.

“When you make an environment easier to navigate, healthy behaviors follow,” said Paula Silha, the county’s manager of health education.

With a sidewalk on only one side, Clinton Street is the only route for non-motorized vehicles to get on and off the island, which is home to about 4,300 people. It is currently four lanes, which La Crosse city engineer for traffic Matt Gallager called “a very outdated idea.”

Residents voiced fears they will have trouble making left turns from Nakomis Street, that they will face traffic jams and that bike lanes are unsafe for children.

“I would never in a million years let my kids be on the street,” said Maureen McCoy, a teacher who lives on Nakomis. “Children should not be on the road with cars.”

With fishing tournaments “practically every weekend,” Nakomis resident Dennis Dorman said the project engineers underestimated traffic and warned of unintended consequences, which he predicted will include more crashes.

Andrea Richmond mug

Richmond

La Crosse City Council Member Andrea Richmond, whose district includes that part of Clinton Street, said she organized the meeting after receiving multiple phone calls and emails since construction signs and barricades went up earlier this summer.

Richmond said that while she voted for the plan she “didn’t know there were bike lanes.”

The design — sometimes referred to as a “road diet” — doesn’t involve any changes to the pavement, just lane markings.

Used on four-lane roads with moderate traffic volumes, road diets reduce vehicle conflicts, which in turn reduces the number and severity of crashes, according to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison found conversion from four to three lanes reduced crashes by more than 40 percent on roads with fewer than 17,500 vehicles per day.

Between 2005 and 2014, traffic flows on Clinton Street dropped by about 14 percent to about 9,700 vehicles per day — less than half the traffic on Rose Street, according to the DOT.

Similar three-lane designs have been used on Monitor Street and state Hwy. 33, which carries up to 9,200 vehicles per day.

First identified in 2007 as a route to and from Logan middle and high schools, Clinton Street was slated for re-painting in 2016, but the project was held over until this year when no contractors bid on it.

According to county records, 15 people attended a public information meeting in January of 2016, including the project manager, two city engineering department workers and the county’s Safe Routes To School coordinator. There was one comment submitted, in favor of the project.

As required by law, notices were mailed to property owners along the route, but not to all resident of the island.

Earlier this summer the contractor, Century Fence, put out signs and barrels, but vehicle detection cameras for the signals at Rose Street were on backorder, which again delayed construction. Work was again scheduled to begin Monday but was pushed back to Sept. 14 because construction at Exit 3 on Interstate 90 was expected to result in some additional traffic on Clinton, said La Crosse County Highway Commissioner Ron Chamberlain.

When asked if the project would be changed based on input from the meeting, Chamberlain said, “Not at this time.”

“Then it’s a dictatorship!” someone yelled.

Asked if the project could be scrapped by the city or county board, Gallager noted that would leave local government on the hook for the costs.

“I will find out if we can make some changes,” Richmond said.

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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.

(19) comments

IRideBikes

Tim: Most Nakomis residents are in Town of Campbell and therefore do not pay City of La Crosse taxes. If they want infrastructure on that road and would not pay for it through taxes as city residents, then they can chip in to help get what they want. GENA and other La Crosse neighborhood residents already pay for park improvements (like a rebuilt Memorial Pool) through their property taxes. Styx - a speed LIMIT is the TOP speed one may legally travel on a roadway. Bicyclists have a legal right to use a WHOLE LANE and go as fast or as slow as they wish. Personally, I think it is most fair to just remove a motor vehicle lane from overbuilt roads, put in new curbing or posts between that lane and the rest of the road, and give that lane just to bicyclists. We pay taxes too and yet for the most part, our "infrastructure" is a line of paint. Not good enough.

LesTrafik

I'm with the city on this. Honestly there are few better places suited for a road diet than on Clinton west of Rose, all things considered. 80000 bucks is dirt cheap for the benefits reaped. So why would the Trib go so far to label this as a rage? It baffles me as to why French Islanders are opposed to it. Some of the comments being made are out of irrational fears.

Styx 'n' Stones

I can remember living on the Island as a kid... when Clinton Street was a two-lane affair, and the old flat bridge to Rose Street with the seldom-used drawbridge was still in use. The street had its fair share of traffic then, and I crossed that old bridge many times... on foot, on my bicycle, and eventually in my car. Eventually the traffic got to be too much for a little two-lane road, and a new bridge was built about 1980, and lo and behold it was four lanes wide! No more cringing and holding your breath while driving across for fear you'd scrape the side of your car on the bridge. And God forbid there should be a bicyclist who rode across in the traffic lanes... that's what the walkway was for!

Just today I was following a bicyclist riding in the roadway down Copeland Avenue. He was going 20 mph at best, and holding up traffic behind him. Had he been riding on the sidewalk (where there weren't any pedestrians at all), vehicular traffic would have been able to move along as normal. Instead, we had to wait for this slowpoke because he was incapable of doing the speed limit. Bicyclists are supposed to obey ALL traffic laws just as motor vehicles do. If you can't do the speed limit then you're obstructing traffic and should move off the roadway, if not as a courtesy to others on the road, then for your own safety so you don't cause an accident. Maybe it's going to take a few bicyclists getting hit and seriously injured or killed before they wake up and understand that it's safer for them on the sidewalk.

lutefisk

pretty sure that's a dude.

The Mouse of Death

[angry]I am indeed bemezzled by those who fail to behoove the need to limit traffic to bicyclists and tricyclists. The automobile is indeed more dangerous than the driven snow even though most snow does not drive unless betwixt neo-Hegelian loquacity of what was once polymatic.

elocs

I live on the northside and have no car so I depend upon my bike and cargo trailer to take me where I need to go and haul what I need to haul. "Road diet" is what was recently done to Monitor St. in reducing it from 4 lanes to 3 with a bike lane on each side. But a white line painted on a street to make a bike lane is not a force field to protect bike riders and they are still at the mercy of traffic. On Monitor St. I frequently see motorists encroach on that white bike lane line because it's just a painted line and the traffic lanes created there are too narrow. Frankly I feel much safer in riding on the sidewalks there because not only is it legal, there is little pedestrian traffic.
On anything but a low traffic side street a bicyclist is the most safe when physically separated from motor traffic by a curb. In the Netherlands there is a street, a curb and then a bike lane, another curb, and then a sidewalk. Bicyclists are separated by a physical barrier from motor traffic and pedestrians are separated from those on bikes by a curb. But realistically due to space problems, that will not happen here. So what is the compromise?
In La Crosse we have Multi-Use Paths (MUPs) across the marsh and other places that are maybe 2 feet wider than our sidewalks. Here both pedestrians and bicyclists share the same area in relative harmony in really the same way as on most of our sidewalks. (I've ridden from the far northside to Walmart on the southside on my bike, with much or most of my riding on the sidewalks, and only encounter a few pedestrians). That stretch of Clinton St. does not have heavy pedestrian or bike travel and for most of the day you might only see a few people walking or biking on the sidewalk, so perhaps a wider MUP might be a safe solution for all. (The "I'm going to ride my bike in the streets" type are not going to ride on the sidewalk or path anyways because nobody is going to tell them where they must ride--even if it's riding in traffic on Rose St. when a sidewalk with nobody on it would be much safer.)

LesTrafik

I like your ideas but as you know this is a standard maintenance resurface/rest ripe only, and makes good $ense as it seems curb & gutter needs no or little replacing. So perhaps a full reconstruct might include an MUP for the segment west of Rose-- 15, 30, 40yrs from now? But then to widen Clinton without filling lowland slopes, heaven forbid.

The curbed bike lane/sidewalk you describe is used near UW campus in Madison on University Ave except, unlike Monitor or proposed Clinton, its a '1-way' formed couplet with W Johnson St-- a 'curb' is used only for the 1-way bike lane flowing 'against' motor traffic, but 'curbless' on the other side of University where the 1-way bike lane (with buffer) flows 'with' motor traffic which allows access to the far-right bus lane.

A 2-way MUP (guessing a standard 8ft width) like the one directly abutting River Valley Dr railroad overpass and barrier on the other side is a bad idea without a substantial bike lane buffer or shoulder with modified curb head especially for transitioning between road and MUP near intersections. A southbound bicyclist is left hung out to dry on a chance-meeting with an opposing bicyclist and semi traffic at the same time (industrial area-- think large boat trailers on Clinton). And so the narrow southbound paved shoulder (west roadside) becomes an alternate defacto 'substandard' bike lane for some, even if during heavier inbound commute hours. 2 bad options instead of 1 good one, little room for lateral drift, on long steep grades no less.

Mo' Money Scott Walker

Salt Lake City, Utah has the same thing. A curb, bike lane, and then another curb. They go a step further and paint the bike lanes completely with another color. There streets are literally painted with lines everywhere seperating pedestrian and bike traffic, that it gets a little confusing downtown. Some intersections also have orange flags, that walkers can pick up, and hold as they cross the street. Definitely different than around here. Hard to believe that Mormans would be more progressive than Wisconsinites, but maybe they're on to something!

IRideBikes

Agree with Bee. There were many advocates for better bicycling there. It's the only road on/off available for bicyclists. But planners must consider the truth about paint alone. It doesn't work to provide safety or the feeling of safety. If Nakomis residents want changes, then they can help pay for them. Assess every Nakomis resident for a second sidewalk/multiuse path along the north side of Clinton if that's what they want. Assess every Nakomis resident for the flashing signal they apparently want across Clinton. Otherwise, I think they get what they *don't* pay for. The city has a right to use approved and usual standards to install improvements for all its citizens including cyclists. I hope they will do this step and then work with the other entities (city/county/Town of Campbell) to make further improvements for cyclists, pedestrians, citizens, and neighborhood residents.

Tim Russell

Do you think they should assess all of the homes in the GENA Neighborhood for their new Pool as well?

Good Citizen

Our roads are suffering from anorexia nervosa and these idiots think we need "Road Diets"?

Conservative Grandma

What good is Andrea to this District? I agree there were many at the meeting who are in favor of the bike lanes (and many more that could not attend), it was just the loud mouths that got the attention. The question at hand is: do we want La Crosse to be progressive or keep doing things like they always have? I say move forward La Crosse!

Good Citizen

Andrea Richmond LIED to our faces last night! She said she wasn't aware of bike lanes until recently. But she voted in favor of the project in 2012 and on page 18 of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee Master Plan it says "Clinton St. - Road Diet and Bike Lanes".

Vote this political prostitute out!

lutefisk

the picture looks like ellicksonStudios work from 1982

crank

LOL

capedcrusader

Put in a pathway and start leading the way toward common sense. Get bicycles off the streets as much as possible and keep our children safe.

ElPresidente

I find Bainbridge St more of an issue and that's two lanes...

Donna Bee

There were also many people attending the meeting who are in favor of the project, but who were respectful and did not speak up or make loud rude comments like those who are opposed.

overtaxed

Of course they were quiet and respectful, they are getting their way!

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