Military Avenue project could kill districtâ€™s potential, alderman says
A nearly two-mile stretch of Green Bayâ€™s Military Avenue is becoming the battleground for a roundabout war.
â€œIâ€™m not opposed categorically to roundabouts,â€ said Green Bay Alderman Guy Zima. â€œThey have their place. But Green Bay does not have a solid business district and putting them here is not going to help.â€
Military Avenue has six lanes for traffic, but volume on the road does not justify its size, said Bryan Boettcher, president of the Military Avenue Business Association. City leaders spent several months discussing a $10 million project to narrow the road to four lanes and control traffic at intersections.
â€œWe surveyed businesses and customers up and down the street,â€ Boettcher said. â€œNinety percent of businesses said they didnâ€™t want roundabouts. And customers, for the most part, said they donâ€™t want to go through them to try to get to our businesses.â€
Yet the Green Bay City Council still picked six roundabouts for those intersections and confirmed the decision Tuesday with a 7-5 vote.
The roundabouts won out because they are efficient in moving traffic and have worked in surrounding communities, said City Council President Christopher Wery.
â€œThe concerns (critics) raised are not factual,â€ he said. â€œPeople get nervous about (roundabouts) at first, but after theyâ€™re put in wherever theyâ€™re put in, people come back.â€
But itâ€™s the waiting period for returning customers that Boettcher said he worries about.
â€œWhen the project was initially proposed, they talked about a two-year construction period, which would be a detriment to businesses on the road,â€ he said. â€œPeople will naturally avoid the road when constructionâ€™s going on, and with the way business is now anyway, we need everything we can to survive.â€
The city has since reduced the project timeline to one year, but with the addition of roundabouts and the time it will take people to adjust, Boettcher said, it still will take two years to get traffic back on Military Avenue.
And once traffic returns, Zima said, the roundabouts likely will cause problems. He said residents still could petition the city for a referendum.
â€œThe fact is that roundabouts arenâ€™t a friendly thing for the area,â€ Zima said. â€œCan you imagine 45,000 cars on Military Avenue going through roundabouts when a Packers game lets out?â€
But Boettcher said there could be a truce in the roundabout battle if the city pays more attention to the streetâ€™s business district.
â€œThe cityâ€™s also talked about plans to use (tax-incremental financing) to grow the area,â€ he said. â€œOur biggest concern was always that development of the areaâ€™s been neglected by the city. Whether the roundabouts are the right or wrong choice, it could take years to know for certain, but for now, itâ€™s the choice the city made.â€
It is simply counterintuitive, Zima said, to improve the district after adding roundabouts.
â€œThey made it six lanes in the first place in anticipation of traffic counts, but the city ended up neglecting the area,â€ he said. â€œThe street does have a lot of potential, and this might be our last chance at making a good, solid corridor for retail business.
â€œBut with roundabouts, weâ€™re just consigning it to nothing more than a local street.â€