Construction Ahead: Transportation Planning in 2015

Big changes are proposed for transportation in the La Crosse region this year, with high stakes for everyone, including cyclists and pedestrians. There’s a limited window of opportunity for the public to be involved in the complicated plans; here is a bare-bones summary of many different issues with a few specific links, dates and events. But things are changing so fast that this list will probably be outdated by the time it hits the web, so be ready to sprint to stay informed.

 

Dates to remember:

 

February 23, 7PM, Myrick Center La Crosse – City Transportation Vision – opening public meeting

February 26, 7PM, Myrick Center La Crosse – City Transportation Vision – closing public meeting

April 11, 8AM-Noon, Myrick Center La Crosse – Mayor’s Neighborhood Conference: Transportation

TBD – State DOT Coulee Region Transportation Study public meetings

 

After decades of complicated history, including a referendum in 1998 and a spirited discussion before the La Crosse Area Planning Commission in 2014, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation has announced a new study of what was once known as the north/south corridor. This project is described in state law as covering USH 53 extending approximately 6.2 miles between I 90 and USH 14/61 near 7th Street, but recent public statements from the DOT have broadened the area to include WI-16 and WI-35 along with USH 53. In La Crosse itself, those highways are better known as Copeland, Rose, George, 3rd, 4th and La Crosse streets as well as West Avenue and Lang Drive.

Now under the name Coulee Region Transportation Study, the DOT is conducting a year-long process to come up with a plan for a major highway construction project, listed in state law for decades (though still without dedicated funding set aside for its estimated $140 million price tag). While state statute seems to require this type of project to either build new road or add new lanes to existing roads, the DOT has indicated that many different options are still possible; at this point in early 2015, no one knows what the recommended option will be – a new highway? New lanes on existing highways? New technology or improved roads? No new construction?

In the planning world, one year is an incredibly short time, and indeed this is an accelerated process that is entirely new to the region: it’s an innovation known as Planning and Environmental Linkages, or PEL, an attempt to speed up existing National Environmental Policy Act requirements for environmental studies that has only been applied once before in Wisconsin. While observers don’t know a great deal about this new process, we can see that public involvement in the early stages is incredibly important to the eventual outcome. The study’s Citizen’s Advisory Groups have already been formed. If they’ve not been invited to those positions, DRBC members can sign up for announcements of upcoming public meetings to get their viewpoints included in the DOT planning process.

No matter what option is planned, it will still have to go through environmental permitting and the state budgeting process, in a time of great budget uncertainty. This means that the possible eventualities range from nothing at all to the largest construction project in the region. With this huge variety of outcomes, there is of course a chance of great impact on cyclists and pedestrians – will increasing traffic volume, speed, or lane numbers on north/south roads include bicycle traffic options, on-street lanes or off-street paths? What about transit? Will changing north/south roads alter the ability of cyclists and pedestrians to move east/west in La Crosse? What will be the impact future land use patterns for neighborhoods, suburbs and surrounding communities?

1.  La Crosse City Transportation Vision

In an attempt to contribute to the state DOT’s planning process over the rest of the year, the city of La Crosse is organizing its own Transportation Vision process. The first public meeting is Monday, February 23rd at 7PM at the Myrick Center, with additional meetings with key stakeholders and open office hours over the rest of the week and a closing presentation Thursday, February 26th at 7PM. (Complete schedule). Consultant Toole Design Group, a firm with nationally-recognized expertise in complete streets design and bike-ped planning, will use these meetings as a basis for a document summarizing a city Transportation Vision, which the DOT has indicated that they will include in their own planning.

2.   Mayor’s Neighborhood Conference

With all of these transportation issues going on, it makes sense that the La Crosse Mayor’s Neighborhood Conference would pick transportation as its theme for this year. Come to the Myrick Center April 11, 8AM – 1PM to hear invited keynote speaker Chuck Marohn of the nonprofit Strong Towns, reports from neighborhood associations, tables and information from representatives from groups and companies involved in transportation, and short presentations on a variety of transportation topics in the region.

3.  Wisconsin

Of course, all of this is happening with a background of a rapidly-changing state budget. In particular, the proposed Senate Bill 21 would repeal Wisconsin’s Complete Streets law. As the Wisconsin Bike Fed puts it, The law requires that bicyclists and pedestrians be taken into account whenever a road is built or reconstructed with state or federal funds. In addition, SB 21 would eliminate all state support for the Transportation Alternatives Program (cutting about $2 million from state bike programs and construction projects), and essentially eliminate the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund, which funds state trail purchases.

There are obvious implications for state-controlled road building here in the La Crosse region, which has recently jumped into a leading position in complete streets planning. The County and City of La Crosse and the City of Onalaska all have passed their own complete streets ordinances in the last several years, with the DRBC’s support. Along with a 2011 La Crosse Area Planning Commission resolution, the city and county ordinances were recently named in The Best Complete Streets Policies of 2014 by the non-profit Smart Growth America. Respectively, they were ranked 4th, 6th, and 25th in their categories from the more than 700 policies examined nationwide. While no one knows what might happen in practice if the state eliminates its own complete streets requirements, in principle it certainly looks like a step backward for sustainable transportation options in the La Crosse region if SB 21 is passed with the repeal intact.

 

For all of these issues, the best way to stay involved is to stay informed; I encourage DRBC members to follow the issues that motivate them and attend the city Transportation Vision meetings, February 23-26, as a key opportunity to contribute to the future of getting around in the La Crosse region.

 

— James Longhurst is an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse, studying the history of urban and environmental policy. He is the author of Bike Battles: A History of Sharing the American Road, out this spring from the University of Washington Press.

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Merry Christmas

December 19, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Commuting, DRBC, Events, Lifestyle, Outreach 

Toni's tree

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So You Love Bicycling…

July 25, 2014 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Advocacy, DRBC, Outreach 

Driftless Region Bicycle Coalition Supporters,

The DRBC would like to start by thanking you for your past support.  Everyone who rides knows getting more people on bikes more often makes better riding. With your help, we intend to continue that mission.  

A couple of ways you can help us is what you have done in the past, giving time helping at events and monetary support. The other is free of both. Follow us via the websiteemail or Facebook. We need to know you are there! Please send us your name or like us on Facebook so we can add you to our roster of cyclists who want a better bicycling environment here in the Coulee Region.

Here is what DRBC has been doing for the bicycling community this last year from October 2012 to October 2013:

Oct 2012

Light up the Night event at UWL Eagle Rec Center, Oct 18

Feb

Supported the 2nd Annual Bike Winter, (in conjunction with Wisconsin Bike Fed) various events between Feb 10 – Feb 23

Supported a Winter Riding Tips Workshop/Fashion Show at Earl’s Grocery and Saloon, Feb 17

April

Offered bike tips/education at Earth Fair at Myrick Park, Sunday April 21

May

Supported Fitness Festival, Saturday May 4

Assisted at Hamilton/SOTA Bike Rodeo, May 9

Organized Bike to Work Week Saturday May 12 – Friday May 18

June

Supported Summer Leisure Rides from the Wine Guyz

July

Organized Bike Valet at River Fest

Celebrated the City of La Crosse construction of a bump-out for the Bike Corral on 4th Street

Aug

La Crosse Public Library Bicycle Rodeo – Main Branch – Aug 2

Family Ride trail ride and camping at Perrot State Park – Aug 17

Bike Safety Rally – Franciscan Healthcare-Mayo Clinic Health System – Aug 31

Sept

Supported Bike Fest – Labor Day Weekend

On-going

Continue to expand DRBC Business Partners Program – businesses that offer great

discounts to DRBC Members!

 

Presently we are working on artistic style bike racks for the arts district in La Crosse, expanding bicycle recycle programs and creating events year round to help you ride, even in the winter.

 

The coming years in the bicycle community are looking pretty exciting. All around the US and the world people are looking back at the humble bicycle as a viable form of transporting themselves and cargo. Cities are seeing how the infrastructure for bicycles is a fraction of what it costs to accommodate an automobile and how cyclists tend to support more local business. People are starting to realize that their car is taking a very large chunk of their income. I personally like having an extra $9100 (AAA national average cost of ownership) in my pocket every year. Just having an extra $200 a month from not buying gas is pretty nice.

Riding bicycles helps save you money, makes you healthy, connects you with your community and put a smile on your face. We believe in ‘More People on Bikes More Often’.

Please help us continue our mission.

 

Michael Baker

President

Driftless Region Bicycle Coalition

 

Website:

http://www.driftlessbicycle.org

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/DRBC/190046991773

Email:

info@driftlessbicycle.org

Postal mail:

Driftless Region Bicycle Coalition

P.O. Box 423

La Crosse, WI 54602

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Hauling Couch

July 17, 2014 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Advocacy, Gear, How To, Lifestyle, Outreach 

8ft couch with kickouts.

8ft couch with kickouts.


I took the challenge of moving a couch, by bicycle.

It started with my wife’s desire for a new couch, ours was getting pretty, well, not pretty. It was about 10 years old and it was time. She picked one out this winter and we ended up making room in a corner to store the old one. My friend was having a garage sale across town recently, time to get it out of the house.

I designed a heavy trailer for towing behind the Xtracycle, tested it with something lighter, then, planned the big haul.

The couch was an 8’ overstuffed with kickout recliners on both ends. It wasn’t light. Not as heavy as a sleeper, but close.

I strapped the two hundred plus pound couch to the trailer and got rolling. At that weight, I had to use the granny ring in 3rd and 4th cogs on the flat road.

It was a pretty good slog (sorry, the word slog is the best descriptor I can think of). The sale was 7 miles away.

Made it with no problems, even felt I could encourage the sale by offering to deliver it.

It did sell, I did haul it, though twice as far as I had written on the tag (4 more miles slogged). The buyer was a bit surprised.

Would I do it again? Yup. Maybe not over 5 miles though. I crawled up a few short hills with that thought we all have when we are doing something kinda crazy, but made it.

Why did I do it?

Well, because the bike can…

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Moving a House(hold) on a Bicycle

June 15, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Advocacy, How To, Lifestyle, Outreach 
Hauling couch

Hauling couch

I watched this video showing someone being moved, from one residence to another…only using bicycles. Think about that. Hauling all your stuff from your house, across town, to another house. Seemed impossible, even watching the video. I still had a hard time believing it worked. They hauled boxes and beds and couches and tables and lazyboy chairs. Everything by bike.

There were a couple big trailers for beds and couches, but otherwise just standard cargo bikes and kid trailers.

I found several other videos from many cities in the US and Canada, same concept.

The most interesting thing, almost no one on a bicycle knew the person they were moving.

A call goes out to the local cyclists (many who did know each other) and they show up. One person commented on how you have to get to these events early to get the big stuff. She was hoping to get the couch!

The standard cost…Lunch and beverages.  

On one move, the owner said it only took only 3 turns to move her. She said it normally would take her all weekend to move herself by car.

Sounds like fun,
I’m in, anyone else?

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