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Two-way plan in downtown Janesville is rerouted

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MARCIA A. NELESEN
January 12, 2011
— A downtown Janesville group Tuesday overwhelmingly endorsed a modified proposal to change only West Milwaukee Street from one-way to two-way traffic.

Court Street would remain one-way under the proposal.


Jim Alverson, owner of Home Again, called it a compromise everybody can live with.


"When you think about the downtown retail shopping district, it really is Main Street and the west side of Milwaukee Street," he said.


The proposal will now return to the Janesville City Council.


Some downtown property owners have championed the change from one-way to two-way traffic to slow vehicles and help downtown businesses.


The city several years ago converted Franklin and Jackson streets. Court and Milwaukee streets were to follow.


The cost of the new, hybrid proposal—which would keep Court Street one-way and convert less of Milwaukee Street to two-way—is estimated at $120,710. That's far less than three other options included in a study brought before the city council in October.


Those options, which ranged in price from $385,000 to $1.8 million, all called for converting both Court and Milwaukee streets to two-way traffic and varying options for handling traffic flow at Five Points. The study was referred to the Downtown Development Alliance.


Under the new proposal, Milwaukee Street would carry two-way traffic between Main and Locust streets. Court Street would remain one-way.


Five Points would function as it does now, saving the expense of changes there, said Carl Weber, Janesville's director of public works.


Eastbound traffic would begin on Milwaukee Street mid-block at the driveway of the former Walgreens. No eastbound traffic would be allowed onto Milwaukee Street through the Five Points intersection, Weber said.


The Downtown Development Alliance, a downtown business group, recently conducted an informal survey of property owners along Milwaukee Street, said Jeni Sauser, chairwoman.


Those with businesses west of the river overwhelmingly supported the two-way conversion, Sauser said. Those east of the river did not, often citing cost as a concern.


The board believes the new proposal is a compromise and the best option, Sauser said.


"As a DDA board, we're trying to represent what business owners want," Sauser said. "We're trying to hear what people say."


She also noted the tight city budget.


Weber said he will have a traffic engineering firm analyze the latest proposal to make sure changing only West Milwaukee Street to two-way traffic would not cause problems elsewhere. That wasn't a concern when the plan was to also change Court Street to two-way because traffic would have been evenly redistributed.


Weber figures the proposed configuration should work.


Travel for motorists coming from the far west side or the far east side would not change, he said.


"They just wouldn't have the same multiple-lane choices as they do now," he said.


Two-way traffic would provide more conventional access and circulation to the businesses along West Milwaukee Street, he said.


Alverson said people he surveyed on his block were positive about two-way traffic and creating a "calmer, more welcoming streetscape and slowing traffic down. Two-way traffic always tends to slow traffic, even though the volume stays the same," he said.


"Hopefully, it will be more like Main Street, where you feel like you can safely signal to pull over and park," he said.


He said he doesn't necessarily expect customer traffic to pick up.


"What they (customers) will find is it's easier to pull over and park," he said. "It just seems a little friendly and safer with the traffic being slower. That … may lead other businesses to want to locate downtown in some of the buildings we still have available."


Residents who want to get to the west side more quickly still could choose Centerway, he said.


Dave Fleig owns Travel Scope at 425 E. Milwaukee St., the intersection where Milwaukee, Atwood and Milton avenues meet. He opposes changing the traffic flow of Milwaukee Street, especially on the east side of the river. His intersection already is difficult, and he envisions a slippery mess in winter if vehicles were forced to stop at a light as they traveled east on the steep hill.


Milwaukee Street has only four or five other businesses from his office to Main Street, he said.


He wonders if the city will create animosity among other business owners if it spends money on those downtown.


"I don't personally see the need to switch it," Fleig said. "It's been a one-way street for I don't know how long, and the argument that it will slow down traffic and bring people downtown—I don't buy that."



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