From Meleesa Johnson: Church Street Deserves Better Than Signs
By Meleesa Johnson, President, Stevens Point Common Council
You’ve probably seen the political signs about maintaining the status quo on Church Street. Slogans may not be the best way to advance public policy. The Bus 51 project is complex. Any solution will be expensive and impact the entire community for generations.
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) considers the combined Church and Division Street as a principal arterial roadway, meaning it connects and provides “continuity for major rural corridors to accommodate trips entering and leaving urban area and movements through the urban area.” This roadway is at the end of its functional life. Sadly, two administrations and at least three councils have opted not to deal with Business 51 because of the complexity and the strong emotional response from some residents and business owners.
However, the 2021 Common Council did take decisive and courageous action to move our community forward. They evaluated the facts.
They stayed focused on the community’s needs and selected the alternative with the least detrimental impact. They never wavered from the need to secure necessary federal funding to off-set up to 80% of the costs. They carefully reviewed every detail and attended countless meetings. Their conclusion: the three-lane alternative will provide all users with safe, efficient travel, will impact the fewest properties, and will qualify for federal funding.
Those who voted or spoke against the 4-to-3 recommendation appear to support the most expensive reconstruction alternative—one that will destroy homes and businesses while increasing your taxes. Advocates of the 4-lane alternative from Patch Street south to the city limits are asking for:
-9 businesses to be removed
-3 homes to be demolished
-4 homes to be within 10 feet of the sidewalk
-Some businesses with front-facing parking lots to lose up to half their parking
-All Stevens Point taxpayers to pay more for this alternative
The 3-lane option is projected to cost $45 million and would very likely qualify for 80% federal funding.
The 4-lane option is projected to cost $52 million and would probably not qualify for 80% federal funding, leaving full cost on city taxpayers.
And let’s dispel the myth that this entire project is being driven by “bike lanes.” While finding ways to safely accommodate all road users is part of the scope, the project’s basis is that the road surface and underground utilities must be replaced. Period. In fact, there are no official bike lanes on the Church Street section. Instead, a wide urban shoulder is part of both the 3-lane and 4-lane options. While cyclists can use this to travel some of the corridor, this wide shoulder is primarily a storm water management system and additional buffer between vehicles and pedestrians.
Slogans are easy. Making informed decisions for the future is hard work—hard work that the 2021 Common Council has taken on. My hat is off to them.