City, students work to install Main Street light quicker
by: Tyler Lamb
City of Whitewater landlord David Kachel has offered to pay for safety improvements on Main Street as the city waits for Gov. Jim Doyle to sign off on the installation of traffic lights on Whiton and Main Streets.
The installation of traffic lights is part of efforts made by the Whitewater Common Council in late 2008 to improve Main Street safety after UW-Whitewater graduate Mike Chaloupka, 23, was struck by a car Aug. 26, 2008 while crossing the Whiton and Main Streets intersection.
Chauloupka died about two weeks later from injuries sustained in the accident.
Earlier this month Kachel made an offer to the council to pay for the entire cost and installation of a permanent variable electronic speed sign, to be placed on Main Street. The cost of the sign is estimated at $5,000 to $7,000.
"I wanted to give one and the city was also giving one … safety for students was part of it," Kachel said. "[city of Whitewater Police Chief James Coan] said if we could move them, in other words if we could take them down and put them somewhere else, he would do it because what he says is after it is out there for a month you would never look at it again."
During the Nov. 11 common council meeting, Coan said motorists would become too familiar with the electronic speed signs, lessening their impact after a few months.
"If you have something out there permanently drivers tend to become complacent," Coan said. "It doesn't have the same impact as if you put something out there periodically."
The need for safety improvements on Main Street was solidified last month when Fort Atkinson resident Laura Rogers, 28, was struck by a car Oct. 14 while crossing at the Main and Cottage streets intersection. Rogers was transported to Fort Atkinson Hospital for contusions to her face and knee.
City and university members are now collaboratively attempting to spur earlier installation of traffic lights on Main Street. The lights are currently scheduled for installation in early 2010 Peace, Education, and Activism through Creative Engagement co-president Patrick Broderick said PEACE has been attempting to put pressure on the governor's office with assistance from the Whitewater Common Council.
"Council member Max Taylor helped us out by getting us the number of the project and common council President Patrick Singer gave us details about the project at a PEACE meeting," Broderick said. "In addition, the Public Works Director Dean Fischer is going to be soliciting student opinions about more accessible design. I was impressed with how our concerns have been received."
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.
"If all this requires is the governor picking up a pen and signing a piece of paper we should be able to get this done much sooner," District 2 councilman Max Taylor said. "So several groups, myself included, will be making several calls to the governor over the next few weeks trying to get him to expedite that process."
The Department of Transportation sent the city an agreement in early 2009 for the installation of traffic lights on Main and Whiton streets, covering 90 percent of the costs including engineering, equipment and installation. The remaining 10 percent of the project will be funded by the city.
The project to install traffic lights met the requirements to be funded as a safety improvement project. Safety improvement projects are perceived high-risk rural roads.
Doyle is not projected to sign off on the project until May 2010. Fischer said if the project to install traffic lights on Main Street would have been strictly a city project, the lights could have been installed already, costing the city $125,000.
City Manager Kevin Brunner said the council also is looking at increasing the wattage of street lights on Main Street from 150 watts to 250 watts, to increase pedestrian safety. Increasing wattage will cost the city more than $10, 000, with additional operating costs amounting to $1,000 a year.