Reconstructing Watertown Plank Road will better define the driving lane, provide safer turning lanes and improve access for walkers and bicyclists, according to project engineers.
Village staff and representatives from Sheboygan-based Donohue and Associates met with Elm Grove residents during an open house Feb. 12 that marks the 30 percent completion point in the design process.
The project will improve the section of Watertown Plank Road from Legion Drive, beginning with road in front of the Clark gas station to the south and OAR Design Studio on the north, to 124th Street.
"It's a good place in the process for public input," said Tammy Kuehlmann, project engineer.
Three options revealed
Preliminary plans showed three options for the intersection at Legion Drive.
The first scenario retains the island with a traffic signal in the middle of Watertown Plank Road at Legion Drive, a through lane, a lane striped for a turn and sidewalk along the edge. However, it would require cutting into more right-of-way than the other two options.
The second option calls for retaining the island, but not the turn lane.
The final option uses the turn lane, not the island.
In all cases, the island and turning lane will be widened to meet current safety standards, Kuehlmann said.
Consultants are looking for feedback from residents and business owners as to which option to pursue. Village Manager Dave De Angelis said all property owners' comments will be considered by Elm Grove's Public Works Committee before recommendations are made.
Another issue requiring feedback is what consultants call the urban vs. rural debate.
Urban road reconstruction projects call for installing curb and gutter, which helps with drainage problems. However, some residents say the unique, quaint aesthetics of Elm Grove would be compromised by the stark, angular curbs.
Project engineers came up with an alternative of a gravel shoulder and grass ditches from Stephens Place to Woodside Drive. However, Kuehlmann asks residents to consider "the true impact" of the rural plan.
The road in that section would be widened to a uniform 16-foot width and because of drainage problems, the road has to built up higher, requiring more grading. The project would end up taking out about 22 significant trees and in some cases grading past people's property lines and around bike paths.
Resident Andy Vrakas, who lives near the project area, said he favors the urban option after viewing the plans.
"The irony is that is you keep it rural, you're going to have to take out more trees," he said. "I think overall the urban option will have a lower profile."
The downtown area offers a variety of street widths from 11 feet to 15 feet depending on the street section. After the reconstruction, the street will uniformly measure 14 feet wide with 11 feet for vehicles and a 3-foot bike lane.
Plans call for continuous sidewalk along the roadway, a requirement for a project that's receiving 80 percent federal funding, Kuehlmann said.
Parking an issue
Sidewalk will pass in front of the Elm Grove Inn and O'Donoghue's, which have parking behind the buildings. This will prevent people from parking in unofficial, makeshift parking spaces along the road, village staff said.
Several downtown business owners voiced concern about losing parking spots.
"Our two little parking spots out front have always been on the chopping block to be eliminated," said Sue Hollenstein, owner of Elm Grove Travel.
She rents one space from nearby Patched Works, but cannot find any additional spots, which makes parking inconvenient for clients, she said.
However, she said she is resigned to the project.
"There's not really much I can do about it," Hollenstein added.
She does see some benefits to reconstructing the road, mainly increased safety for drivers and pedestrians.
"Safety is No. 1," Hollenstein said. "The village does need to have continuous sidewalks and safe turning lanes to get in and out of the village."
Intersections to change
Preliminary plans call for changes to the intersection of Juneau Boulevard, Watertown Plank Road and Crescent Drive in front of St. Mary's Visitation Parish.
Juneau Boulevard would come into Watertown Plank at a 90-degree angle, De Angelis explained. Crescent Drive would be moved slightly east to come in at 90 degrees as well.
Because of the young children at the school and older women at the School Sisters of Notre Dame, project engineers are looking for ways to increase pedestrian access and safety in that corridor, Kuehlmann said.
Other planned changes include lining up Fairhaven Boulevard so drivers can make a 90-degree turn from Watertown Plank Road, providing on-street parking at various locations from Legion Drive to Church Street, and adding turn lanes at Church Street and North 124th Street.
The project is scheduled to begin in 2008. Another public information meeting will be held as the design plans develop. Issues like traffic flow during construction will be discussed at that time, Kuehlmann said.
Contact reporter Stefanie Scott at (262) 317-8565 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHO: Tammy Kuehlmann, project engineer
WHAT: Wants feedback on design plans for Watertown Plank Road reconstruction
WHERE: Send letters to Donohue and Associates, 3311 Weeden Creek Road, Sheboygan, WI 53081 or e-mail email@example.com
WHEN: by Wednesday, Feb. 28
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