Port aldermen OK controversial plan to pare road near school, add sidewalks despite residents’ protests
The Port Washington Common Council on Tuesday approved a controversial plan to narrow Theis street and lane near Lincoln Elementary School on the city’s north side.
The city also agreed to add sidewalks on the south side of Theis Street and east side of Theis Lane when the road is reconstructed next year.
The decision was slammed by Fred Schaefer, 209 Theis St.
“You voted to go against the vast majority of the residents of Theis Street and Theis Lane in making the decision you made tonight,” he told aldermen, saying officials made that choice so they could “save a couple bucks.”
“It’s sad, it really is sad, that we have to do this,” he said.
While city officials contend the work will slow traffic and provide a safer walk to school for students, Schaefer and his neighbors have argued it will do just the opposite.
Youngsters walking on the new sidewalk on the south side of Theis Street will have to cross traffic on Theis Lane when being dropped off or picked up, Schaefer said.
“Then they will have to cross a line of traffic at the school, walking between cars, to get into the school,” he said.
It is far safer for students to travel on the existing sidewalk on the north side of the street, which leads directly to the school, Schaefer said.
Few students actually walk to school, he added.
“I can count on one hand the number who walk on the north side,” Schaefer said, adding that the work will also kill numerous mature trees that line the street.
But city officials noted that it is safer for youngsters to walk on sidewalks than in the street, which currently occurs, and added that the sidewalk will serve not just students but other pedestrians as well.
Public Works Director Rob Vanden Noven said school officials reviewed the plan in the last week.
“They had no concerns with the installation of sidewalk, decreasing the street width or adding crosswalks,” he said. “Like us, they want to encourage kids to walk to school.
“And while not many students may use the sidewalk, pedestrians will.”
The sidewalk and crosswalks will also put drivers on notice to watch out for walkers, Ald. Mike Ehrlich said.
“It tells you, ‘Now I’ve got to pay attention,’” he said.
The plan approved by the council represents a compromise. Vanden Noven had originally recommended narrowing Theis Street, which is currently 36 feet wide, and Theis Lane, which is 38 feet, to 30 feet. But after residents brought their concerns to the Board of Public Works, members recommended making both roads 32 feet wide.
“I think it was a good compromise,” Ald. Dan Becker said.
Also approved in the road plan were designs for a number of other city streets, including Lincoln Avenue from Portview Drive to Spring Street; Tower Drive from Second to Grand avenues; Larabee Street from Spring Street to its west end; Woodland Avenue from Garfield Avenue to the cul de sac; Norport Drive from Grant to Holden streets; Holden Street from James to Norport drives; James Drive from Holden to Benjamin streets; and Benjamin Street from Norport Drive to Beutel Road.