Jeramey Jannene

Budget Amendment Would Move Milwaukee Towards “Vision Zero”

Proposal start of an effort to eliminate traffic fatalities and serious injuries.

By - Oct 30th, 2020 03:19 pm
Members of the Milwaukee Fire Department respond to a multi-vehicle crash on N. Sherman Blvd. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Members of the Milwaukee Fire Department respond to a multi-vehicle crash on N. Sherman Blvd. File photo by Jeramey Jannene.

A proposed amendment to the City of Milwaukee’s 2021 budget would advance work to eliminate all traffic fatalities and severe injuries.

The amendment has its basis in a proposal, known as “Vision Zero,” that was adopted by the Swedish parliament in 1997. The theory is based on the principle that it can never be acceptable that people are killed or seriously injured when moving in the road system.

In the United States, Chicago adopted the vision as part of a 2012 action plan and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio advanced a Vision Plan in 2014.

Milwaukee has never adopted such a proposal, though the city adopted a Complete Streets policy in 2018 to treat all road users equally and a pedestrian plan in 2019. A joint city-county reckless driving task force completed its work earlier this year.

Ald. Nik Kovac, introduced the amendment, which creates the first funding allocated to a Vision Zero initiative.

“There are various debates if it should be education, enforcement or engineering, the answer of course is all three,” said Kovac of the philosophies on improving road safety. “I tend to be on the engineering and education side.”

The number of crashes hit a record high of 17,568 in 2019, up from 10,616 in 2011. Across Milwaukee County, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation reports an average of 76 people have died each year in crashes from 2015 through 2019. WisDOT reports 80 deaths have occurred this year.

“It’s a very tragic thing that is hitting our city and it seems to continue unabated,” said Kovac of traffic fatalities for motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians.

The proposal has the support of the Department of Public Works.

“Basically what we would like to do is work with the police department to come up with a scope of work,” said Public Works Commissioner Jeff Polenske.

He characterized what comes next as “A deep dive analysis of the crash data.”

“It would help us set our properties on where and how we make improvements going forward,” said Polenske.

Budget director Dennis Yaccarino said Mayor Tom Barrett is in support of the proposal.

The proposal, recommended for adoption by the Finance & Personnel Committee, will be reviewed by the full Common Council on November 6th. The measure is sponsored by Kovac, Marina DimitrijevicMilele A. Coggs, Michael Murphy, Scott Spiker, JoCasta Zamarripa, Chantia Lewis and Russell W. Stamper, II.

UPDATE: An earlier version of this article was based on an earlier version of the amendment. The committee-approved version does not cut any MPD positions, nor create any within DPW. It calls on DPW and MPD to collaborate on hiring a consultant using funds in the DPW multimodal capital budget.

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