South Ave. expansion draws concern from some city council members

Pedestrian, real estate aquisitions among biggest concerns

With about 200 crashes over a five-year period, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation continues to look at ways to improve the safety of South Avenue in La Crosse.

Some city council members are expressing concerns about some of the construction options.

Project supervisors with the Wisconsin DOT recently presented several construction options regarding South Avenue, between Green Bay St. and Ward Ave., to the La Crosse Bicycle-Pedestrian Advisory Committee.

While their main concern is addressing safety, some members remain skeptical about the plans.
It’s a road that’s not less traveled.

“It does not meet our current design standards, given the amount of traffic there is,” said Ian Winger, project development manager with the Wisconsin DOT.

Addressing those concerns, the Wisconsin DOT looked at various ways to reduce accidents, including the expansion of South Ave between Ward and Green Bay to potentially include medians and turning lanes.

“It’s trying to force a lot through a very narrow corridor that exists,” said Winger.

With the project comes concerns about pedestrian and bicycle access.

“They are trying to funnel people down these intersections that are in some cases, two or three blocks away from their home,” said Martin Gaul, La Crosse city council member from the 16th District.

Potential construction proposals also call for a minimum of an additional two feet of space on each side of the road, which could take a bite out of taxable real estate.

“In order for us to do that, there needs to be some sort of additional real estate required along the corridor,” said Winger.

“It’s the impact on the property tax base, because if they remove structures on this highway, that’s going to have a negative impact on our budget going forward,” said Gaul.

Both officials from the city and the DOT hope further talks can lead to some solutions.

“It’s a balance between all those socio-economic impacts that are out there, and that’s where we need to get a lot of public involvement,” said Winger.
“The DOT listened to the concerns that were expressed last night in our committee, and I know they will use those in their discussions going forward,” said Gaul.

As it stands now, about 18 to 32 businesses or homes would be impacted by any potential construction that involves expansion of the road.

If the plans were to move forward, the DOT hopes property acquisition would begin around the summer of 2017. The projected budget for the project at this time is at least $9 million.