Jeramey Jannene

Wells Street Could Gain Raised Bike Lanes

Quarter-mile stretch will be rebuilt through East Town.

By - Apr 7th, 2022 08:33 pm
E. Wells St. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

E. Wells St. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The City of Milwaukee is moving forward on rebuilding a nearly half-mile stretch of E. Wells St. through Downtown.

The $4.31 million project would rebuild the section of E. Wells St. from N. Broadway to N. Van Buren St., passing Cathedral Square Park. First announced in 2019 as part of a larger project, construction work is expected to take place in 2024.

The longer street was converted to two-way traffic in 2011 and the bi-directional design resulted in a series of turn lanes and painted bike lanes being created. Now the street configuration is poised to change again.

Department of Public Works major projects manager David Tapia told the Public Works Committee Thursday morning that the current design calls for a five-foot-wide raised bike lane protected by a three-foot buffer. The proposal would replace all of the pavement in the quarter-mile stretch.

For much of the street, the bike lane will be raised to be level with the sidewalk, but delineated with asphalt, instead of concrete pavement. The parking lane will be lower, even with the one travel lane in each direction, and provide a buffer between moving vehicles and bicyclists. An eight-foot-wide sidewalk with a five-foot concrete buffer between it and the bike lane is proposed.

The eastern half of the block between N. Milwaukee St. and N. Jefferson St. will get a special treatment. Parking will be removed so the sidewalk can be expanded to 15 feet wide. This will occur in front of two bars that currently have parklets, Flannery’s Bar & Restaurant and This Is It, and provide them with the space they currently get by filling the parking lane. A five-foot concrete buffer will be maintained between the sidewalk and a six-foot-wide, asphalt bike lane. Other businesses that could leverage the expanded sidewalk include Taylor’s, Real Chili and a future tenant in the Louise’s space.

“Alright, very good,” said area alderman and committee chair Robert Bauman.

The State of Wisconsin is financially supporting the project given its technically part of Wisconsin Highway 32. The highway, on paper, runs from Illinois to Upper Michigan, snaking through Milwaukee. It spends much of its length as part of Interstate 43.

A revised project budget, the reason for Tapia’s appearance, has the city contributing $1.99 million. That’s down from the original plan of $2.84 million as a result of the anticipated construction cost falling as the city shrank the scope of the project.

As proposed in 2019, the project went east of N. Van Buren St. to N. Prospect Ave. Now the project stops at N. Van Buren St. The roadway east of N. Van Buren St. narrows from 60 feet wide to 44 feet. A DPW spokesperson said that section’s pavement is in “satisfactory condition” and would be addressed with the city’s high-impact paving program that replaces only the top layer of the street.

The design costs of the project have increased requiring the council to approve an amended plan. The preliminary engineering section now is planned to cost $1.02 million, with the city paying $255,000. The original preliminary engineering cost was $675,000. The engineering costs are part of the larger project budget.

It will be one of the first streets rebuilt Downtown under the Complete Streets ordinance adopted in 2018 that requires the city to design streets that are safe, comfortable and convenient for all road users.

The protected bike lanes would parallel those along E. Kilbourn Ave. a block to the north. N. Van Buren St., for which a redesign project is progressing, could also gain protected bike lanes. A separate proposal, with little public activity in recent years, had protected bicycle lanes being added on N. Jefferson St. from E. Kilbourn Ave. to the Historic Third Ward.

Rainbow crosswalks recognizing Milwaukee’s LGBTQ+ community are on the east-west crossings at the intersection of E. Wells St. and N. Jefferson St., but they required a bit of legal engineering to achieve. Federal regulations prevent colored crosswalks on a state highway. Then DPW coordination manager (and now outgoing commissioner) Karen Dettmer stewarded the implementation of the city’s solution: determining that the crosswalks technically paralleled the highway, instead of being atop it. Her work earned her an ally award from Milwaukee Pride.

The stretch of Wells Street to be rebuilt is bisected by The Hop at N. Broadway and N. Milwaukee St.


Categories: Transportation, Weekly

2 thoughts on “Transportation: Wells Street Could Gain Raised Bike Lanes”

  1. tornado75 says:

    well, that’s very exciting for the nano second of a bike ride on the raised lanes. really another ‘improvement’ for the downtown east side. how about making safer bike lanes going east to west. a novel idea, i think.

  2. tornado75 says:

    yes, i know wells street runs east west. i guess i meant further west out of the little elite zone.

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