Rebuild the Grid
A variety of infrastructure improvements can be utilized to build a quality city, big items such as well designed parks, and little things such as eliminating unnecessary curb cuts can all play a role. Recently, the City of Milwaukee has been moving forward with street improvements such as the “complete street” reconstruction of S. 2nd Street in Walker’s Point which is scheduled for construction this summer, and the conversion of one-way streets to two-way streets such as the E. State Street project currently under construction, but there is more that can be done to enhance streets in Milwaukee to build a better city. Just as transit allows people another transportation option, an intact street grid offers users a variety of travel options to reach their destination, and unlike cul-de-sac, end of the road style street networks, the grid shortens travel distances and times.
This connectivity, is useful for all of a users of the public right-of-way, including pedestrians, bicyclists, or automobile drivers. For automobile traffic the grid allows for a variety of routes, which can alleviate bottlenecks when streets become congested, and even provides a measure of additional parking. But pedestrians and bicyclists benefit even more than automobile drivers as the negative impacts of limited choices are greater in time, effort, and distance for these users. Quite simply, by shortening travel distances biking and walking become more convenient, and in turn more likely.
Although the street grid is fairly well intact, to improve the connectivity and access for users the city should look to rebuild and preserve the grid system wherever possible. One example of a section that should be considered for reacquisition is Jackson St. in the Third Ward. The street ends before reaching Erie St. adding a couple of blocks to a pedestrians trip, which makes a quick trip to Riverfront Pizzeria or Riptide less likely for those who live, as the crow flies, just two blocks away. There are likely numerous other street sections in Milwaukee that are worth considering, when reasonable, and of course these acquisitions couldn’t happen overnight, but each year attempts should be made to put street sections back on the grid.