Reconstruction of West Wilson Street is likely moving forward without bicycle infrastructure improvements but with the option to add them in the future.
The approximately $1.8 million, three-month long construction project will involve replacing the pavement, city utilities, curb, gutter and sidewalk on West Wilson Street from Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. to South Henry Street. The project is expected to begin in the spring of 2018.
At its May 17 meeting, the Board of Public Works recommended reconstructing West Wilson Street at its present 40-foot width, keeping the same two travel and two parking lane configurations and maintaining flexibility for potential future bicycle accommodations by including modified curb sections on the south side.
Madison’s City Council will make a final decision on the reconstruction plan at its meeting on June 6.
The city previously considered implementing a counterflow bike lane into the project, either by widening the sidewalk or removing the south side parking lane, but Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, said concern from residents and businesses prompted him to pull sponsorship of testing a bike lane.
“The feedback I received from actual stakeholders that live and work in this area is that they felt it was too much uncertainty with all of the construction in the area to install a street bike facility at this time,” Verveer said.
The competing priorities of several groups collided for this downtown project, including those of bicycle organizations; environmental advocates, who were concerned about tree removal on Wilson Street, and businesses worried about losing parking for their customers.
With the reconstruction of East Wilson Street coming up in 2020 or 2021 alongside the nearby major Judge Doyle Square redevelopment, city engineers recommend adding bike infrastructure along East and West Wilson streets in the coming years.
Pedestrian/Bicycle/Motor Vehicle Commission member Mark Bennett said he was disappointed in the decision to move ahead without bicycle infrastructure improvements. Citing various reports including the city’s Downtown Plan that recommend these updates, Bennett said it is time for the city to commit.
“At some point, I hope we can stop kicking the can down the road and say, ‘Yes, we agreed this is what needs to be done and we’re going to do it,’” Bennett said.
Commission member and bicycle advocate Grant Foster said pushing off adding bicycle amenities is a “reasonable” solution but encouraged the city to be clear about its commitment to bicycle users.
“It’s sort of a no-brainer we need the facilities,” Foster said. “I think we really need to commit ourselves that when the next Wilson (Street) project comes up that that’s the time to put bike facilities throughout all four blocks.”