Oak Street Bridge Project (Click for larger image)

The Oak Street bike and pedestrian bridge and path project has cleared several more hurdles recently. According to City of La Crosse staff, the funding for the project has survived in the city budget being sent to the common council of La Crosse. Also the bridge was well received by the general public and home owners, with adjacent properties to the proposed path, at a public meeting last night. While this is not the end of our efforts to help see this project to its conclusion, these were both major obstacles. If everything goes well from this point forward construction could begin next year with a completion date in late 2011 or early 2012. This will be the end of an 11 year odyssey!

In the Budget

Many of you may have first heard about this project when we put out a call for members to contact the La Crosse Plan commission and ask them to keep the funding in this year’s Capital Improvement Budget. We also ask you to attend the budget meeting on Tuesday afternoons if you could, and you did! We had DRBC members and others standing up and speaking at almost every one of the budget meetings. This was noticed and definitely had an impact on the decision to fully fund this project.

While the Oak Street Project is still in the proposed budget going to the La Crosse Common Council that does not mean it is out of the danger zone. We will have to communicate and work with councilors to make sure that it passes the Common Council with its funding intact. Then we will have to work to make sure that the mayor actually passes the budget with this project in it. We will continue to keep you up to date on this and let you know what actions to take.

Also there is some hope that there will be additional and significant grant money coming in for this project. According to city staff they should know in the next few days.

Public Meeting

Yesterday evening there was a public meeting held on the Oak Street project. Home owners of adjacent properties were invited and a general public notice was put out. We also invited our members to attend and boy did you! Public meetings on projects can often be very acrimonious affairs, ripe with hostility. It was great to see that the vast majority of home owners present seemed to favor the project. A large number of DRBC members were also in attendance and several asked questions and offered their support for the project. Having broad community support is very important for projects like this. Thank you to everyone that came out last night.

Remaining Obstacles

Besides making sure the money is available to complete the project, perhaps the most significant hurdle that remains is the rail road. They have been slow to react and can basically hold the project hostage if they refuse to cooperate. Remember this bridge will cross several rail road lines. We will be monitoring the negotiations with the rail road and will take any actions that will help keep the project moving forward.

About the Project

The Oak Street Bridge project is actually about more than just a bridge. The bridge portion of the project will connect Oak Street to the north side of La Crosse. The eastern terminus of the bridge will be at the intersection of Oak Street and Enterprise Avenue. It will cross the rail yards and its eastern terminus will be near the intersection of Harvey and Cunningham Streets (click here to view PDF project map). From that point a 12 foot wide paved path will pass between the houses and the rail lines going south and exit onto the Gillette Street sidewalk near the intersection of Gillettte and Ranger Drive.

Funding Update 10/28/10

The City of La Crosse just received notification from the state of Wisconsin that the Oak Street project has been awarded an addition grant for $1.02 million dollars. This significantly reduces the amount that the city will have to contribute.The grant comes from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and was one of 47 bike and pedestrian projects state wide that received funding. Congratulations to the city staff that have been working so hard to get this funding in place.

The project still has to go through the budget process but with the additional funding it should meet much less resistance. We will continue to monitor the project and keep you informed.

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