La Crosse residents were eager to share their thoughts on the Hwy. 53 corridor Thursday, with about 75 people gathering at Northside Elementary School to talk transportation, walkability and natural resources.
The public input session put on by the city’s Hwy. 53 Corridor Master Plan Steering Committee invited the community to weigh in on plans for the area between Interstate 90’s Exit 3 and the La Crosse River.
People raised concerns about pedestrian access to natural resources, streets and trees, with participants — including Bob and Sylvia Weathers — calling for improved crossings and streetscapes.
Bob Weathers called for changes to take advantage of the great views of the Black River offered by the area, improving the main gateway into downtown La Crosse from the interstate.
“It’s not a very pretty way into the city,” he said.
The couple also called upon the committee to find ways to improve bicycle and pedestrian routes.
“To get across Rose Street and Copeland Avenue, you take your life into your own hands,” Weathers said. “It is tough. They’re talking about an increase in the volume of traffic there.”
While the Weathers have easy access to trails from their home, they hope to see that extended to others in the area.
“As far as Riverside North, we’d like to see it more geared toward recreation than an economic hub,” Sylvia said.
The city hired Perkins + Will, ISG and Toole Design Group in July to help develop a comprehensive plan for the Rose Street corridor, addressing concerns of transportation designs, historic preservation, urban design, economic development and land-use priorities.
The group has gotten started on market and economic analysis, doing market research and transportation studies, but they hope to build in community input when it comes down to time to make design decisions, according to project manager John Slack from Perkins + Will.
“We dig into everyone’s comments, distill the common themes and then we weave those common messages together into clear priorities and see how it translates into an urban environment,” Slack said.
The primary concern Slack heard initially was the livability of the neighborhoods.
“I’ve already heard tonight about areas where people are uncomfortable crossing the streets, uncomfortable walking besides the streets,” Slack said.
Those are concerns the committee will take into account as it moves forward in its planning process, which will go into next year.
“I’m really glad the city is doing this, giving everyone the opportunity to have a bite of the apple,” Bob said.
Overall, the public was happy to have a chance to be a part of the process and city representatives were happy to see the event so well-attended.
“To make these plans successful, we need the participation of people who live, work and play in the area affected by the plan,” La Crosse senior planner Tim Acklin said.
Acklin cleared up some confusion, noting that while the plan took the proposed changes to Exit 3 by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation into account, it was in response to that redesign, not connected to it.
“This plan is more than just transportation,” Acklin said; it also takes into account economic development, the social cohesion, the environmental resilience and the community institutions.