City holds first public meeting for possible Stanley Street changes
Stevens Point officials held a public information meeting Wednesday, Oct. 26, to take input from residents about making possible changes to the lane striping on Stanley Street from the Interstate 39 Interchange to the university campus.
The proposed project could, among other things, implement a four-to-three lane conversion on the corridor to improve safety and open up room for bike lanes. No construction would occur on the road, only a restriping of the lanes to reduce the four lanes down to two with a center turn lane.
It’s estimated to cost somewhere in the ballpark of $50,000. It’s a relatively meager sum when compared to the greater whole, but a weighty logistic decision nonetheless.
“Form a staff perspective, I feel it’s important we get our message out … So, why are we here? Because there have been citizens who have reached out to staff and to Common Council members and as a result some of the Common Council members have reached out to staff to look at the possibility of considering a four-to-three lane conversion on Stanly Street,” said Scott Schatschneider, director of Public Works.
“The question has been asked, ‘can Stanley Street do more than just move vehicles?’ and that’s going to be part of our analysis. The best way to start that consideration is with a public involvement meeting,” Schatschneider said.
The project came about in a traditionally unorthodox manner, though, as a handful Stevens Point Common Council alders pushed to have it included during the 11th hour of the 2017 budget cycle after receiving encouragement from local advocacy groups. But Stevens Point Mayor Mike Wiza pulled back on the reigns slightly to allow for the necessary time required to properly go about city projects.
Garrett Ryan, District 3, publicly called Wiza a bully and accused him of stonewalling the project during the September Common Council meeting because it wasn’t included on the committee and council agendas.
However, Wiza said he had no problem putting the project through the chain – nor had he received any actual direct request to do so – but stressed the logic of not trying to make it work for 2017 that late in the game, to take their time to do it right next year.
Ultimately, the council agreed and passed the 2017 budget during its October meeting. But not without continued argument from a few alders.
In the spirit of getting the ball rolling, Wiza organized a public information meeting.
“There seems to be enough interest in it where we thought we’d start exploring that. Anything that the city does is typically a pretty long process, which is done purposefully,” he said.
The long process allows for more people to provide input and ask questions as well as gives engineers time to develop designs and work through the issues with help from the public, he said.
Wiza and the Public Works Department started right away with the first step of any potential road project: a public information meeting Oct. 26.
To give the public some context, Kyle Kerns, associate city planner, and Schatschneider gave a short presentation about some possible options on the table. The basic concept the four-to-three lane conversion wouldn’t be hard to design from a layout standpoint, as the street is exceptionally wide, and has the potential to increase safety.
By somewhat of a wide margin, residents living directly on Stanley Street who spoke at the meeting were against the four-to-three lane conversion, saying it’s already hard enough to get in and out of their driveways and traffic is heavy along the corridor most of the day and reducing the lanes could exacerbate their problems.
To be fair, though, more than 200 letters were sent out to residents along Stanley Street and one street removed – under the assumption they too use the street– and not all of the 71 people attended the meeting disagreed. There were a few who admitted it’s entirely too early to pick a side and saw the merit in discussing reform. There were also those in the audience who said road diets genuinely make safer roads for motorists as well as bicyclists and pedestrians.
From a purely statistical standpoint, two lane roads with a center turn lane are safer and the engineering data backs that up. Traffic flows move slower and they leave plenty of room for users other than cars and trucks, but they’re not perfect for all streets and needs to be studied diligently, Wiza said.
One raised the point this particular project has a lack of urgency to justify spending the funds.
Jerry Moore, former District 11 alderperson, said he thought it was a little silly the city was entertaining the idea and give it such a high priority when finding money for capital projects is getting increasingly challenging. The small projects add up and get expensive fast.
“This is a want, not a need,” he said.
Anyone with suggestions to improve Stanley Street can submit their comments through the “Suggestions and Comments” link on the bottom right hand side of the www.stevenspoint.com homepage, next to Mayor Wiza’s picture.