Livable Neighborhoods, Inc., will host a Mayoral Candidate Forum, on Thursday, March 16th @ 7:00 PM, @ Black River Beach Neighborhood Center. The public is welcome to attend.
At this time, the only candidate on the ballot is the incumbent, Mayor Tim Kabat; however we believe it remains important to hear from the candidate and ask questions about important issues.
Our #1 issue remains the N-S Corridor (5B-1), a new 4 lane road between I-90 at US Hwy 53 and US Hwys 14/61 (South Ave) at 7th St S. The 5B-1 N-S Corridor remains enumerated in Wisconsin statutes all these years later, and still on the La Crosse Area Planning Commission (LAPC) and the Wisconsin Transportation Projects Commission (TPC) list of approved Transportation Improvement Projects (TIP) to begin in 2022.
The recent Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) Coulee Connections Study resulted in 6 build plans for a new road through the marsh and the neighborhoods that are hybrids of the original 5B-1 plan.
The current budget for this NS Corridor is $143.2 million, which according to the recent Legislative Audit Bureau Report is significantly lower than what the actual cost is likely to be because WisDOT systemically underestimates the costs of building new roads or expanding existing roads. Based on the Report, Livable Neighborhoods estimates the additional cost for this new 4 lane road that is all of 6.1 miles to be another $20+ million or $163.7+ million.
And according to the Report, WisDOT also does not include the costs of the required environmental and social justice impact studies, which can be another $20+ million, or the costs of the required environmental and social justice impact remediation, which can add another $20+ million.
This brings the likely costs of a new road to $203.2+ million or $40+ million per mile!
It should also be understood that whenever WisDOT builds or expands a new highway, the municipalities must agree to maintain and repair that highway to WisDOT standards in perpetuity. WisDOT provides funds to the municipality for the maintenance and repair based on a fixed formula based on the population of the municipality and the lane miles of the road.
Unfortunately, this formula often is inadequate, especially for urban highways like those in La Crosse. The State of Wisconsin also does not provide significant funding for the other municipal costs associated with providing services for a road, including traffic patrols, emergency response, court costs, planning, engineering, etc. – these majority of these costs are borne by the property taxpayers in that municipality.
WisDOT has determined that the no build option (H) in and of itself will not be sufficient to address their projected traffic counts, and so plans to winnow down the 6 build options to 2-3 build options. In other words, WisDOT plans to build a new road.
WisDOT is projected to being the next study phase in 2018 at a cost of $800,000.
Our #2 issue is WisDOT’s original proposal to expand South Ave from 4 lanes to 5 lanes and take out a block of homes and some businesses, and make it more difficult for people to cross from one side to the other (in order to speed peak volume commuter traffic). This proposal has been modified, but the goal remains to move as many cars as fast as possible, especially at peak travel times, rather than find alternatives, such as a road diet that will slow the traffic down.
And our #3 issue are WisDOT’s plans to widen State Hwy 16 from 4 lanes to 6 lanes County Highway OS to La Crosse St, and widen La Crosse St from 2 lanes to 4 lanes from Losey Blvd to 7th St. These expansions would increase speeds and traffic, making it more difficult for people to cross from one side to the other (in order to speed peak volume commuter traffic).
Our preference is to fix the roads we already have first, and make them both safer and more accessible for all modes of travel, especially people that walk or bike. This means designs that slows vehicular traffic down, and improves the accessibility and safety for people that bike and walk.
We are also expecting the City of La Crosse to begin to implement the proven Transportation Demand Management (TDM) standards that make up much of the no build option (H) that would negate the supposed need for any new or expanded roads.