Board won’t bend on plan to narrow streets

Despite objections from residents, Port officials stand by roads designed to slow traffic, protect pedestrians
Ozaukee Press staff

Despite the pleas of several residents, the Port Washington Board of Public Works decided Tuesday to narrow streets significantly when they are rebuilt next year.

But resident Tom Wise asked the board to rebuild Crocker Avenue between Melin Street and Grand Avenue to 32 feet instead of the recommended 28 feet next year.

That, he said, would meet the city’s goals of slowing traffic and enlarging the parkway while still allowing two cars to pass by at the same time.

“When you get to 28 feet, you can no longer have two cars passing,” said Wise, 218 Crocker Ave., who noted that the street is currently about 35 feet wide.

Phil Skowbo, 330 N. Roger St., asked the board not to narrow that street, saying the dead-end road is already difficult for drivers, particularly those in large trucks, to turn around on. These motorists often use the residents’ driveways, which aren’t built to handle heavy loads, he said.

“It doesn’t take too many times to crack that surface,” Skowbo said. “How are you going to prevent that?

“One size does not fit all, especially when it’s a dead-end street.”

Like Crocker Avenue, Roger Street is to be narrowed to 28 feet.

The impact of narrow streets was questioned by Karl Wildner, 936 W. Larabee St., who said he believes that it will contribute to flooding since there won’t be as much area to store rainwater.

“What’s the plan to deal with decreased holding capacity?” he asked.

The men were among a group of about a dozen people who attended a public information meeting last week about the street projects.

Public Works Director Rob Vanden Noven told the board that the recommended street widths are intended to slow traffic,  increase the parkways for trees and snow storage and to improve safety.

“To me, that’s all the more reason to want to keep speeds reduced,” he said. “I want to live on a quiet, short street that’s safer.”

The streets are “what I call extremely low-count roads,” he added, noting they are lightly traveled.

Vanden Noven said the city could add another foot to Crocker Avenue and Roger Street, bringing the width of each to 29 feet, to help address the concerns.

But Ald. Mike Gasper, a member of the board, said he  is “fine with 28 feet.”

“I don’t see a need to go wider,” Gasper said. Because there are a number of driveways on the road, drivers have plenty of room to “weave in and out” if they are passing one another and the space feels too tight, he said.

Ald. John Sigwart, a member of the board, said he, too, favors narrower streets.

“I think the narrow street concept is great for calming traffic,” he said.

On Roger Street, Vanden Noven recommended the city build a “hammerhead” at the dead end, which would create a T in the road that will allow vehicles room to turn around.

Gasper also addressed Wildner’s concern about flooding, saying narrow streets should help the situation because they create less impervious surface while increasing the grassy parkways.

“You get less runoff with grass,” he said. “I can’t see it being problematic at all.”

The 2019 street projects include Roger Street from Melin Street north, Summit Drive from Portview Drive to Lincoln Avenue, Garfield Avenue between Second and Fourth avenues and Third Avenue from the alley to Garfield Avenue.

They also include water main work on Western Avenue/Ravine Street from Division Street to Oakland Avenue.

The improvements to Crocker Avenue from Grand Avenue to Melin Street are being designed, but officials aren’t sure if they will be built next year.


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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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