Graham Kilmer
MKE County

Lincoln Creek Road-to-Trail Project Beginning

Parks department will convert roadway to bicycle and pedestrian trail.

By - Apr 30th, 2023 04:15 pm

Planed Lincoln Creek Parkway Conversion. Milwaukee County Parks.

Milwaukee County Parks is set to begin designing the conversion of just under half a mile of a street into a trail.

The plan is to convert 0.3 miles of the Lincoln Creek Parkway between N. 23rd Street and N. 27th Street. The project is funded through a county initiative that was called the “Fiscal Health Challenge.” Departments were asked to submit projects for funding out of the county’s federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) allocation that would lead to long-term savings for the county.

If everything moves along on schedule, construction of the new trail should be completed by fall 2024.

Trails are much cheaper to maintain and replace than roadways. The total budget for the project, including design and construction, is approximately $700,000. The Parks department estimates that the trail, which should last at least 25 years, will save on average $12,000 a year in maintenance costs. “It’s a parkway that would otherwise be multi-multi-million dollars on our capital program to rebuild as a roadway,” deputy parks director James Tarantino told the County board’s Committee on Parks and Culture in 2022.

Funding for the Lincoln Creek Parkway project was tied to another parkway conversion. The spending package included approximately $1.6 million for the conversion of nearly one mile of the Little Menomonee Parkway to a mixed-use trail.

The Lincoln Creek Parkway, particularly this section, functions as a redundant roadway. It does not add anything to the street network that doesn’t exist elsewhere. It also does not provide driveway access for any of the nearby homes. The parkway is also already used as a connection to the Oak Leaf Trail system.

The redundant nature of the roadway also means that it’s frequently used as a “short cut” and parks staff have heard complaints and witnessed reckless driving along the parkway.

This project is one piece of a larger effort by Parks to reduce the amount of paved surface in the system. The department has already converted other roadways in Greenfield Park and along Underwood Parkway. The overarching idea is for the department to “focus on parks for people, not parks for cars,” Tarantino said in February while discussing the Jackson Park Drive parkway-to-trail project.

For the Jackson Park project, the county faced significant opposition from some members of the surrounding neighborhood concerned about losing vehicle access along the section planned for conversion, and concern that a bicycle and pedestrian path would increase crime in the neighborhood. Jackson Park Drive is nearly 20 years overdue for resurfacing, and Parks planned to rebuild it as a trailway to reduce future maintenance costs.

The parks system has a nearly $500 million backlog of maintenance and infrastructure projects. In order to keep up with the parks system’s infrastructure needs, the county would have to dedicate nearly 100% of the money it borrows for infrastructure projects every year just to parks.

While removing roadways designed for vehicles has and will continue to receive pushback, there is a large constituency for projects that pedestrianize streets. Supervisor Sheldon Wasserman polled his district on the future of Ravine Road, which runs underneath the recently restored Historic Ravine Road Bridge, and found there was significant support for (80%) some type of roadway that favors pedestrians and bicyclists.

2 thoughts on “MKE County: Lincoln Creek Road-to-Trail Project Beginning”

  1. DanRyan86 says:

    I like this new approach the parks system is taking to reducing costs by replacing underused or redundant roads with multiuse trails where possible. Frankly, it’s pretty clever and shows a solid commitment by the county parks to be efficient with their money where possible and to reduce their annual obligations for maintenance. This is good public service.

  2. mkwagner says:

    Whenever there is a change to streetscapes, complaints concerning increasing crime surface. These complaints have less to do with crime and much to do with fear of change. We do so much to nurture fear instead of community. As a result we pay for it with increased mental health issues, isolation, and violence.

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