Jeramey Jannene

Milwaukee Joins People-Focused National Transportation Group

NACTO membership gives city support in its push for safe streets.

By - Jan 20th, 2023 04:53 pm
Reconfigured N. Water St. at E. Juneau Ave. Rendering provided by Department of City Development.

Reconfigured N. Water St. at E. Juneau Ave. Rendering provided by Department of City Development.

The City of Milwaukee is now formally a member of a national transportation group that is focused on establishing safe, sustainable, accessible and equitable transportation options.

The city joined the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) as an affiliate member city. The organization provides technical assistance and peer-to-peer best practices exchange on street design to its member cities.

“I am a major believer in collaboration and being part of NACTO provides access to new ideas we can look to implement here in Milwaukee,” said Mayor Cavalier Johnson in a statement announcing the membership. As acting mayor, Johnson declared reckless driving a public safety crisis as his first act in office. He backed the city’s 2018 Complete Streets policy and, in 2022, worked with the council to adopt a Vision Zero policy focused on eliminating traffic fatalities.

“Joining NACTO means much more than having access to better design guidance,” said Public Works Commissioner Jerrel Kruschke said. “It gives us an opportunity to connect with peer cities throughout the country about transforming our streets, public spaces, and city into places where all people feel welcome, where all travel modes are provided for, and where new
policies, technologies, and initiatives are explored.”

Starting July 1, all Department of Public Works employees were required to first consult NACTO guidance during project development regardless of the project’s funding source. The formal membership is intended to augment what is publicly available and provide more support.

Alderman Jonathan Brostoff called the membership a “much needed, welcome and truly exciting moment” for Milwaukee. The underlying principle that drives the NACTO mission is that streets should be transformed into pedestrian-friendly places that improve safety for all users and are less car dominant, promote economic vitality, and provide a sense of place for the community,” said the alderman in a press release. “I could not agree more, and I commend the administration and department for embracing this philosophy that will help create a city that is safe, welcoming, and livable for all – regardless of how they choose to get around.”

Safe streets advocates have called for the city to formally join NACTO and adopt its principles as a way to speed up the implementation of traffic calming and pedestrian safety measures.

“This is a great improvement. The Wisconsin Bike Fed is happy to see city leaders and DPW taking steps to improve our streets for people biking, walking, using transit, and various mobility devices. Hopefully, this will help the city not have to design from scratch or constantly pilot any new and progressive designs. Having a network of peers who ‘get it’ and the support network in guiding new street designs will get us where we all want to be on safer streets,” said Bike Fed deputy director Jake Newborn. “Additionally, the passage of NACTO guidelines from this past summer and membership will have the ability for the city to override state design guidelines on certain projects as this was an update in policy in the [bipartisan infrastructure law]. We still have work to do at the state level to push for better design guidelines, but this can help to set precedent as we move toward the mayor’s goals of safe streets for all Milwaukeans.”

Milwaukee is now one of approximately 50 affiliate member cities.  The city is unable to join as a “full member” because the metropolitan area has less than two million residents. Affiliate membership costs $12,000 annually, less than half of the $25,000 full membership cost.

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