By CHUCK QUIRMBACH
MILWAUKEE (AP) — A recently completed reconstruction of a Milwaukee-area street not only aims to help encourage walking or commuting to one of the largest local employers; it may also provide an example for planners of other street projects to follow.
And that’s despite secrecy about the cost.
The rebuilt street is 87th Street, about a half mile between Wisconsin Avenue and Watertown Plank Road, on the grounds of the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center.
The public can use the street, but it’s regarded as a private one. The big players there — Medical College of Wisconsin, Froedtert Hospital and Children’s Wisconsin — came together to pay for not only a straighter street with well-marked intersections but also medians, wide sidewalks and a bike lane separated from cars.
It’s not the region’s first separated bike lane. But Andre Ost with Graef Engineering, who worked on the 87th Street project, said people will most likely see more of this on other streets, WUWM-FM reported.
“I see separated and protected bike lanes as really being the future. It’s happening a lot more and more. We’re starting to work on projects. We hear the excitement about it. Now that it’s built in one area, there’s less apprehension for other cities to be doing it. I know the city of Milwaukee is looking at it, and the city of Wauwatosa, and I expect other suburbs will too,” Ost said.
Separating the bike lane means fewer dangerous encounters among inattentive or inexperienced drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists.
Ost said the 87th Street project also has two multi-use paths to the residential neighborhood, east of the medical center, to accommodate walkers and bikers.
Ost said it’s too early to say if the number of single-occupancy car trips to the center has declined. But he said making even a small dent in big daytime numbers would help.
“There’s so much staff. I mean, there’s 15,000 first shift employees, and a lot of them live within that three mile radius. So really, whatever we can get is a benefit to all users. It’s trying to create those comfortable connections to get that staff in,” Ost said.
Although much tax money flows to the Regional Medical Center by way of research grants, a spokesperson said for the street project, as a matter of policy, MRMC does not release information about costs.
There are also 1.5 million patient visits a year to the Medical Center. There is currently a county bus service to the site. But transportation officials hope frequency would increase after the Bus Rapid Transit electric bus system is built on the west side of Milwaukee County, which will serve the MRMC and will also reduce the number of private car trips there.