Jeramey Jannene

Public Meetings Upcoming On Redesign Of Two Major Southside Streets

National and Oklahoma will see major changes. Meetings give chance for questions and feedback.

By - Jun 2nd, 2023 03:32 pm
W. National Ave. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

W. National Ave. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Major changes are planned for two arterial streets on Milwaukee’s South Side. And upcoming meetings will give the public a chance to ask questions and weigh in on the designs, which promise to provide improvements for more than just drivers.

The larger project is the rebuilding of W. National Avenue between S. 1st and S. 39th streets. W. Oklahoma Ave. between S. 6th and S. 27th streets will also receive substantial multi-modal improvements.

The 2.6-mile National Avenue project was first announced in 2020. It runs from Walker’s Point west to the city limits.

Open-house-style public meetings are being held June 8 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. and June 10 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Milwaukee Area Technical College‘s Education Center at Walker Square, 816 W. National Ave.

Detailed designs have yet to be publicly released, but a rendering shared with the meeting announcement shows the four-lane street rebuilt as a two-lane street with turn lanes and protected raised bicycle lanes. During the February 2020 announcement, area Alderman José G. Pérez and then-Public Works Commissioner Jeff Polenske said the city’s focus would be on improving safety for all users.

“Ever since we were kids this has been a tough street to get across,” said Pérez in a 2020 interview.

Two safe streets advocacy groups, the city’s Pedestrian and Bike Advisory Committee and the Wisconsin Bike Fed, are leading a group bike ride to the Saturday, June 10 meeting. The ride will begin at 9:30 a.m. at Harbor View Plaza, 600 E. Greenfield Ave.

The National Avenue project is being conducted as a partnership between the city’s Department of Public Works (DPW) and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) because it is also designated Wisconsin Highway 59. The city is to pay $1.57 million for what was anticipated in early 2022 to be a $25.2 million project.

Road construction is slated to begin in 2026 and, because of the scale of the work, would take two years to complete. But, there will be substantial utility work occurring on the corridor starting in 2025. Because it involves rebuilding the street, Milwaukee Water Works will coordinate replacing lead service lines on properties along the route as part of the larger project.

WisDOT maintains a project website with more details on past meetings and the project timeline.

Oklahoma Avenue

W. Oklahoma Ave. at S. 20th St. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

W. Oklahoma Ave. at S. 20th St. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The 1.5-mile Oklahoma Avenue project will run from the nexus of the Morgandale, Polonia and Bay View neighborhoods west to St. Luke’s Medical Center and the S. 27th Street business corridor.

It does not include fully rebuilding the street, but is instead focused on improving “multimodal safety, connectivity and comfort.”

The city’s 2019 pedestrian plan identified a number of crash hot spots on the corridor, most notably the intersection with S. 6th Street. The stretch west of S. 13th Street was identified as part of the city’s pedestrian high-injury network.

DPW’s proposed design would reduce the number of travel lanes from four lanes to three between S. 6th Street and S. 22nd Street, add protected bike lanes between S. 18th and S. 22nd streets, add painted bike lanes between S. 6th and S. 18th streets, add pedestrian refuge islands at S. 10th, 11th, 18th, 25th and 26th streets, add concrete bump-outs at S. 11th, 13th, 16th, 18th, 20th, 22nd, 25th and 26th streets and add bus boarding islands at S. 13th Street and S. 20th Street.

With the exception of concrete bump-outs and pedestrian islands, the stretch west of S. 22nd Street would be left largely as is. Milwaukee Public SchoolsCasimir Pulaski High School is located on that stretch. Cyclists would be able to bike north on S. 22nd St. to the Kinnickinnic River Parkway or head south through the Southgate neighborhood.

Detailed designs for the Oklahoma Avenue project have already been publicly released and can be reviewed online.

In 2020, the city secured a $842,814 grant from WisDOT’s federally-backed Transportation Alternative Programs program to support the project. It must cover 20% of the project’s costs.

The city’s grant application said from 2014 through 2018 there were 445 crashes and 206 injuries or fatalities in the corridor. Traffic volumes range from 14,000 to 23,000 vehicles per day going east to west. The grant application said 8,000 residents and 11,000 jobs are located within a quarter mile of the street.

The Oklahoma Avenue public meeting is scheduled for June 13 from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at Flores Hall, 2997 S. 20th St.

Construction on the project is planned to start next summer.

All three meetings will include support for Spanish speakers.

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Categories: Transportation

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