South Side Businesses Worry About Future Plans for Bus. 51
By Lisa Pett
As the Stevens Point Public Works Commission continues the planning process for changes and construction along the Business 51 corridor through Stevens Point, area businesses which could be affected are weighing in on the proposals.
The project, slated to begin at the earliest in 2018, would be completed in phases, beginning on the south end of Bus. 51. The new plan would allow for bike lanes, medians and reconstructed intersections along one of the busiest corridors through the city.
According to crash studies done by Stevens Point- based engineering firm AECOM, the intersections of Main and Clark streets, Briggs Ave., Franklin St., and Fourth Ave. have a higher number of traffic collisions than other similar roadways throughout the state.
Wally Leppen, owner of the Auto Exchange on the city’s south side and member of the South Side Business Association said he doesn’t agree with the project as it’s currently planned.
“If the project is about safety, then they should start [the construction] at 4th Avenue and Division, rather than down here,” Leppen said.
Leppen, who signed a letter of protest from the South Side Business Association to the city, also said he feels project leaders haven’t considered enough input from the businesses most affected by the construction.
Dave McMahon, of Ace Car & Truck Rental said the two-lane plan with a median would be bad for business.
“They should fix the sewer systems and keep it four lanes,” he said. “A median strip would restrict access to his business. “That could close us down.”
Cole Racine, owner of Belt’s Ice Cream and President of the South Side Business Association, said he feels a final plan should be a better consensus of ideas between the Board of Public Works and other city leaders, area businesses and residents.
“They should be holding more public information meetings where the businesses and residents [most affected] can be allowed to speak,” Racine said.
The Stevens Point Board of Public Works has held three public information meetings so far, in January, May and November of 2013. Several other smaller meetings where held with residents and business owners near the Bus. 51 corridor, as well as the SSBA.
“The [Board of Public Works] hasn’t done a very good job laying out the cost/benefits analysis,” said Racine, adding the SSBA isn’t opposed to the project entirely but wants more consideration for the long term effects to the business properties along the south side of the city.
Racine said restricting access with the new median could prevent some businesses from moving- or staying- along the city’s main corridor.
“That idea pushes the safety issue from the street to private properties as drivers have to cross parking lots to reach other businesses,” he said. “We need multiple thriving business districts for the city.”