Jeramey Jannene

Milwaukee Wins $36 Million To Rebuild Key Street

Grant will overhaul 6th Street through heart of city.

By - Mar 12th, 2024 06:11 pm
Conceptual redesign of 6th Street in Downtown. Rendering by The Kubala Washatko Architects and Downtown Plan project design team.

Conceptual redesign of 6th Street in Downtown. Rendering by The Kubala Washatko Architects and Downtown Plan project design team.

The U.S. Department of Transportation is awarding the City of Milwaukee $36.6 million to rebuild 6th Street through Downtown and several surrounding neighborhoods as a complete street for walkers, bikers and drivers.

The grant, from the Biden administration’s Reconnecting Communities program, will cover a 2.6-mile stretch between W. National and W. North avenues.

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin announced the grant in a press release, and President Joe Biden is expected to promote the award Wednesday during a visit to Milwaukee.

“I fought hard to secure these investments to reconnect our communities with one another, creating economic opportunity and ensuring Wisconsinites can get to work and school safely,” said Baldwin in a statement. “I proudly voted for the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act because I knew they would make Wisconsin a safer place to raise a family, cut costs for families, and help our economy move forward.”

Sixth Street, long a key north-south link in the city, will be reconstructed and redesigned in the Walker’s Point, Westown, Hillside, Haymarket, Halyard Park, Bronzeville and Harambee neighborhoods.

“Investments like this have a very positive impact on Milwaukee neighborhoods and the entire city. I am grateful to our elected federal leaders who are working to improve lives here and around the State of Wisconsin,” said Mayor Cavalier Johnson.

The redesign of the central portion of the street was also singled out as a catalytic project in the recently-approved 2040 Downtown Plan.

Sixth Street was expanded in the 1960s and several buildings along it were demolished, but its traffic volume no longer requires its width. The Downtown Plan proposes the addition of traffic-calming features and other pedestrian and bike-friendly amenities. A Department of Public Works planner told a city committee in September that the city was in the conceptual stage for planning, but that the newer portion over the Menomonee Valley wouldn’t be reconstructed.

“The Complete 6th Street will include safe, dedicated infrastructure for walking, biking, and transit as well as green infrastructure that will provide much needed tree canopy and green space while easing the load on the City’s combined sewer system. The project aims to connect neighboring communities and downtown resources through comfortable, affordable, safe, and sustained modes of transportation and a transformed street that enhances the character of the unique communities along the corridor,” says the grant announcement.

It’s the second major street reconstruction Milwaukee has won in the past year, following a $14 million award in June to rebuild the commercialized portion of W. Villard Avenue.

An additional $2 million grant, awarded to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, will fund a study of replacing or reconfiguring the W. National Avenue ramps at Interstate 43/94.

A federally-backed project is already underway to rebuild National Avenue.

“I am so thrilled that this $36 million grant will allow the federal government to make vulnerable neighborhoods along the 6th Street Corridor more accessible, safe, and walkable. The Connecting North to South project is an investment in the health and quality of life of our residents and will address the long-standing issue of sewer overflows,” said Congresswoman Gwen Moore.

A handful of traffic calming efforts have been installed on the street in the past two years. Curb bump outs in Walker’s Point are designed to prevent illegal passing. Several bump outs and a protected intersection were installed near W. Walnut Street to reduce illegal passing, reduce speeds and require safer, slower turning.

Milwaukee previously applied for two Reconnecting Communities study grants in the past. In 2023, its applications to study a freeway-to-boulevard conversion of Wisconsin Highway 175 and a freeway covering between The Brewery District and Hillside neighborhoods were rejected.

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Categories: Transportation

6 thoughts on “Milwaukee Wins $36 Million To Rebuild Key Street”

  1. Wardt01 says:

    There’s 4 or 5 bus routes on 6th Street through the downtown area, which makes it a dangerous place to ride a bike..

    Seems like whoever is the big brain with these city street designs strongly believes it is extremely safe & prudent to ride a bicycle next to 30 ton city buses.

    #1 give the bus drivers some breathing room & put the bikes & pedestrians a block away. The bus drivers already have a lot to pay attention to with just their normal duties, why add more to their plate?

    #2 even if you take away the inherent danger of riding next to a 30 ton bus… I’d rather ride /walk on a street that’s quiet & peaceful vs any bus route with the noise, brake dust, etc.

    #3 and, due to the excessive weight of city buses, the pavement on bus routes ALWAYS fails within a few years, ie: cracked, potholes, rutted… Which is another reason to avoid those streets.

  2. snowbeer says:

    It’s time we stopped putting grass in medians (or anywhere else on roadways). It’s expensive to properly maintain, requires chemical applications to do so at a large scale, and the requires lots of expensive city labor to maintain it (mowing and trimming in a roadway). There are plenty of ways to beautify the median with low lying plants that require zero maintenance, water, labor, or chemicals (such as Pachysandra). Time for civil engineers and landscape architechs to modernize.

  3. kenyatta2009 says:

    fix the streets

  4. PVS49 says:

    This plan sure looks good to me. As a regular biker, the bike lanes appear to be physically separated from traffic. The addition of vegetation (grass, trees) helps make the entire project more attractive and has a cooling effect during warmer months. Fantastic for pedestrians and bikes.

  5. mkwagner says:

    I guess I don’t understand Wardt01’s complaint. According to the conceptual plans, the only section of the bike lane that is not separated from bus traffic is right around the bus loading area. Even this has the potential for a dedicated bike lane. The plan looks like it is truly pedestrian and bike friendly.
    I agree with Snowbeer, we should stop planting grass along medians. Flowering plants, especially those that attract pollinators and/or rain gardens would be much more cost effective and environmentally sound.

  6. steenwyr says:

    I’m far more worried about the 10000 other drivers than I am about the busses. Slow, 30 ton busses are probably more predictable for a biker and their operators, while still humans, are likely more conscientious and trained.

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