Jeramey Jannene

Milwaukee Seeks Data for Vision Zero Push

Consultant would identify dangerous interactions, develop predictive model.

By - Jan 8th, 2021 01:45 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. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

What’s the most dangerous intersection in Milwaukee?

A consultant will be tasked with answering the question as part of a data-driven approach to reducing traffic fatalities and related injuries in Milwaukee. It’s the first step towards a “Vision Zero” plan to eliminate traffic fatalities. The policy goal can be traced back to the Swedish parliament in 1997. Chicago adopted the vision as part of a 2012 action plan and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio formally introduced the goal in his city in 2014.

Now Milwaukee is getting on board, moving beyond just enforcing traffic laws to make the roads safer. Improvements will include both engineering and education.

“Clearly expecting us to hire enough police officers to enforce our way out of this is never going to work, no matter how many we hire,” said Alderman Nik Kovac, the measure’s lead sponsor, to members of the Public Safety & Health Committee on Thursday.

The Milwaukee Police Department and Department of Public Works (DPW) are being tasked with coming up with a scope of work for a consultant to analyze the city’s crash statistics and “establish tools, such as predictive modeling,” that would identify priority locations for interventions.

“We are really trying to have a stronger understanding of who, where, when and why crashes occur so we can better prioritize our resources,” said DPW multi-modal planning manager Michael Amsden. “We will be focusing on those severe crashes.”

The planning manager said the consultant will look at multiple years of data to develop a more accurate report.

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 died each year in crashes from 2015 through 2019. A council report notes that even with the pandemic, the number of traffic fatalities was up 50% in 2020.

The city, in late 2018, instituted a Complete Streets policy that any street design project takes into account the safety of all users, including pedestrians and cyclists. This summer DPW implemented temporary interventions on a number of city streets to assess the viability of different traffic calming strategies. The City-County Carjacking and Reckless Driving Task Force issued its final report in July which includes narrowing traffic lanes and other engineering improvements as part of a multi-pronged approach to address reckless driving.

Kovac thanked advocates that have pushed the city to adopt the policy. The Coalition for Safe Driving MKE is the leading advocate for the vision. “The idea here is to create the Vision Zero template,” said the alderman.

Funding for the consultant would come from the DPW multi-modal transportation budget. Under the resolution, DPW and MPD have 90 days to come up with a scope of work.

The committee unanimously adopted the request and signed on as co-sponsors. The measure is sponsored by Kovac, Michael Murphy, Khalif Rainey, Scott Spiker, Mark Borkowski, Chantia Lewis and Marina Dimitrijevic. The proposal was first submitted as a policy footnote in the 2021 budget.

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Related Legislation: File 201205

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