Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Issues In Whitewater

Council fails to improve Main Street Safety
Tyler Lamb
Issue date: 11/4/09 Section: News
Whitewater Common Council took to no additional action regarding Main Street safety Tuesday, despite concerns voiced from campus and community members.

"I think there is a real concern about crossing at Main Street, particularly between classes." Councilwomen-At-Large Marilyn Kienbaum said.

One resolution suggested to the council was to increase the wattage of streetlights from Prairie to Prince streets.

"That whole area just isn't right. It's dark in a lot of spots and there are a lot of times I came along at 10:30 p.m. and just about hit somebody because all of a sudden they are in the middle of the road," District 1 councilmen Jim Olsen said.

City manager Kevin Brunner said increased lighting from 150 watts to 250 watts would cost the city more than $10,000, with additional operating costs coming to $1,000 more per year for the additional wattage.

"In addition, I think a lot of council members and a citizen mentioned variable speed boards that flash what speed your traveling at," Brunner said. "Those costs are estimated, to install, $5 to 7,000 each. One property owner to the south, David Kachel, contacted me and he informed me he would be willing to pay the entire cost of the board."

The council and Whitewater police weren't in favor of the electronic speed signs.

"I'm not convinced with the electronic speed signs," District 4 councilmen Lynn Binnie said. "I appreciate the generous offer … my concerns include one we get the stop light in there that's going to naturally resolve and slow the traffic."

City of Whitewater Police Chief James Coan said motorists would become too familiar with electronic signs, lessening their impact after a few months.

"If you have something out there permanently drivers tend to become complacent, it doesn't have the same impact as if you put something out there periodically," Coan said. "We think things have improved greatly."

Brunner said the city is attempting to expedite the process of installing traffic lights on Main Street.

"We were able to get state funding but we also have to go through sorts of hoops that we normally wouldn't have to because this state project."

The project is still scheduled to be completed installed early 2010 due to the bidding and development processes. Brunner said if the city would have done this on their own it done much quicker but the city would have had to pay more than $125, 000.

"If it would have been strictly a city project … we could have had them installed already but at $125,000 savings to the city we are talking about a one year period," Public Works Director Dean Fischer said.

Main Street concerns originated when UW-Whitewater graduate Mike Chaloupka and Fort Atkinson resident Laura Rogers, 28, were struck while crossing at Whiton and Mainstreets.

Whitewater Common Council voted in late 2008, as a result of Chaloupka's death, to install traffic lights at the Main and Whiton streets intersection in spring 2010.

The trombone-arm pedestrian yield signs were installed at the two Main Street intersections in May 2008.

The Department of Transportation sent the city an agreement for the project covering 90 percent of the costs including engineering, equipment and installation costs. The remaining 10 percent of the project will be funded by the city. City Manager Kevin Brunner said the intersection safety revamp will cost $12,000 to $15,000. The project carries an estimated total cost of $138, 400.

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