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Mayor Paul Soglin

Mayor Paul Soglin vetoed the City Council's decision on a plan for the reconstruction of Winnebago Street. 

Mayor Paul Soglin vetoed the Madison City Council’s decision on the Winnebago Street construction project Monday, arguing parking on one side of the street should be retained.

At its May 1 meeting, the Council adopted a plan for construction that would narrow Winnebago Street and remove one side of street parking from Sutherland Street to Bashford Street.

“When I look at the demand for this space on Winnebago, and the options for bicyclists, and the options for residents and their guests to park their cars, I find that the balance leads to retaining the parking,” Soglin said in a veto message Monday.

In his veto message, Soglin pushed back against the idea of “complete streets,” or planning for roads to handle motor vehicles, pedestrians, bicyclists and public transportation. He said Madison's "nicest streets" are narrow and generally no wider than 30 feet, making it challenging to accommodate individual lanes for motor vehicles, pedestrians, bicycles and parked cars.

“It is time we think of ‘complete corridors,’” Soglin said. “Recognizing that if we are committed to the concept of ‘place’ that we cannot accommodate every transportation demand within every street.”

The plan the Council adopted would have allowed allowed trees on both sides of the street, 41 street parking stalls and curb extensions. A second option supported by city staff would allow trees on one side of the street, 60 on-street parking stalls, curb extensions and pedestrian islands. 

"In some ways, no matter which option was selected the decision results in a lose-lose situation," Ald. Marsha Rummel, District 6, said in an email. 

Discussion of the reconstruction plan underscored the competing interests of how streets are used.

“Transportation in the urban environment is often a compromise so … oftentimes we have a battle between having parking at all or maybe taking parking off,” City Engineer Rob Phillips said at the May 1 meeting.

Rummel advocated for a compromise between maintaining more of the parking and addressing the need for trees. While Rummel said she understands the goals of planning streets that accommodate all forms of transportation, parking stalls are also part of the equation.

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“The balance here is all the modes of transportation: of pedestrians, bicyclists and motor vehicles and trying to have something that fits the context of the street that we’re on,” Rummel said during the Council’s discussion.

Ald. Rebecca Kemble, District 18, said at the meeting that the Winnebago Street reconstruction decision represents “piecemeal planning” and highlights the city’s need for more comprehensive transportation planning.

Last September, the Council created a nine-member Transportation Policy and Planning Board and approved the hiring of a director of transportation. Kemble said at the time that the changes would create a more cohesive planning process for transportation in the city. 

Kemble said on-street parking, or “free public storage of vehicles,” should not be a priority of street planning.

“Streets are for stormwater management and transportation for moving people and vehicles, motorized and non motorized. That’s the priority,” Kemble said.

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Abigail Becker joined The Capital Times in 2016, where she primarily covers city and county government. She previously worked for the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism and the Wisconsin State Journal.