By Dave Fidlin

Correspondent

An ordinance aimed at making accommodations toward pedestrians and bicyclists — in addition to motorists — on city streets is under consideration in Whitewater.

The Common Council on Dec. 16 held a first reading of a so-called complete streets ordinance. A second, more definitive reading of the document is slated to be taken up by the council after Jan. 1.

If added to the city’s legislative books, the complete streets ordinance would serve as a guide as future decisions concerning street designs are taken into consideration. The ordinance presented to council members last week came on the heels of an Oct. 21 directive to create the document.

“The ordinance change itself would not impact the budget,” Matt Amundson, the city’s parks and recreation director, said. “However, there would be a potential impact to future street construction and reconstruction projects.”

The mission of the ordinance, as written at the beginning of the document, states “the City of Whitewater will encourage healthy, active living, reduce traffic congestion and fossil fuel use and improve the safety and quality of life of residents of the City of Whitewater by providing safe, convenient and comfortable routes for walking, bicycling and public transportation.”

The document serves as a follow-up to the comprehensive bicycle and pedestrian safety plan that was adopted by the council a year ago.

The proposed ordinance calls on city officials and contracted design and engineering firms to consider a number of accommodations as future decisions are taken into account. Some of the features include sidewalks, shared-use paths, clearly delineated bicycle lanes, crosswalks, bicycle parking facilities and enhanced landscaping along city streets.

Additionally, the document as presented calls on city leaders to consider adding street furniture — most commonly park benches — as well as signals that offer audible countdowns to pedestrians and paved shoulders that would provide additional space between motorists and other roadway users.

Prior to presenting the council with a draft ordinance, several city staffers solicited feedback from peers in other communities.

Assistant City Manager Christopher McDonell, for example, posted a request for information on a statewide network of city management staff members. In documents provided to the council, McDonell revealed he received two responses as of last week’s council meeting.

The Village of West Salem in La Crosse County has adopted a similar iteration of the complete streets ordinance.

“I understand when any street or road project is planned and designed, we have to take pedestrian and bicycle accommodations into consideration anyway,” Teresa Schnitzler, West Salem’s village administrator, clerk and treasurer wrote in response to McDonell’s request.

Schnitzler added, “It wasn’t a big deal for us, and I haven’t experienced any negative effects of the adoption.”

Gary Rogers, Fox Lake city administrator in Dodge County, said the municipality has not adopted a communitywide complete streets ordinance, “but (the city is) utilizing the complete streets concept for major streets and highways.”

Amundson took a similar request on a national scale and received feedback from leaders from Pierce County, Wash., where the ordinance has been adopted.

“There was no negative testimony during the county council hearings,” Shawn Phelps, Pierce County’s senior transportation planner, wrote in an email. “Since the ordinance is so new, it is too early to tell whether there will be negative backlash against it or negative consequences to our organization. There are few reasons why I doubt there will be much negative impact.”

 

 
 

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