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Madison bridge starts avalanche of frustration

By: admin//November 12, 2010//

Madison bridge starts avalanche of frustration

By: admin//November 12, 2010//

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By James Briggs

A Madison pedestrian bridge built in 2008 continues to send dominoes of trouble down the avenue it spans.

The bridge, part of a $750 million upgrade to East Washington Avenue, initially caused an uproar from a McDonald’s franchise holder whose signage was blocked by the bridge to drivers heading east.

McDonald’s sued, claiming it lost business because people couldn’t see the store. Madison in September settled with the corporation for $312,000.

Now, gripes caused by the bridge could stretch farther down East Washington.

Poynette-based Missoula Mac Inc., holder of the McDonald’s franchise, plans to move the store a few blocks east from the bridge to the Madison East Shopping Center.

But neighbors who live close to the shopping center don’t want the extra traffic a McDonald’s could create. Also, the Hawthorne Branch of the Madison Public Library, which also sits in the shopping center, would lose parking spaces.

“It’s the law of unintended consequences,” said Tripp Widder, chairman of the Madison Public Library Board.

The library, Widder said, would lose between 10 and 20 parking spaces under the proposed relocation.

“The McDonald’s would move, essentially, into the parking lot that serves the Hawthorne Branch,” Widder said. “We would lose a substantial number of stalls that were very convenient to the library.”

Missoula Mac has little choice, though, Vice President Mike Mangin said.

“It’s my interest to get the thing moved,” he said.

Mangin declined to specify how much money he estimates the store is losing because of the pedestrian bridge, but insisted it’s substantial.

The city essentially agreed with Mangin when it approved the settlement, a decision Alderman Larry Palm supported. Despite concerns about the move of the McDonald’s, Palm — whose district includes the current and proposed store locations — said he thinks it will be a straightforward request to approve.

“Certainly, there are people who have concerns about such an operation,” Palm said. “I can’t see how I can solve that through zoning.”

The Worthington Park Neighborhood Association has opposed the move, claiming the McDonald’s would bring excessive traffic to the area. The association wants a side road, Hermina Street, closed to the shopping center to prevent drivers from veering into the neighborhood.

Worthington Park Neighborhood Association President Dace Zeps did not return immediately return calls Friday.

Mangin has commissioned a traffic study that he plans to present to the neighborhood association. He said he has no opinion on whether the city should close Hermina Street to the shopping center.

“That’s not exactly our issue at this point,” he said. “It’s between the city and residents.”

Palm, though, said he thinks the neighborhood’s concerns are overstated.

“There’s not a lot of evidence that a lot of traffic would go to that street,” Palm said. “No one searches for a McDonald’s and then wanders through back streets.”

Adding insult to Mangin is that his company will have to move the store on its own dime. McDonald’s corporate claimed the entire settlement from the city, leaving the franchise holder to unintentionally share the frustration noted by library patrons and neighborhood residents.

“We’re not an approving agency,” Widder said. “All we can do is weigh in and express our concerns, which we have done. If Urban Design and the Plan Commission decide this is a good thing, there’s not much we can do.”


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