While bike commission stays course, cracks on Stanley St. plan emerge

Above, Councilwoman Mary McComb, Stevens Point Associate Planner Kyle Kearns, and BPSSC commissioners Trevor Roark and Mike O’Meara. (Metro Wire photo)

By Brandi Makuski

Councilwoman Mary McComb said she is now in favor of removing a four-way-stop from planned changes to Stanley St.

McComb serves as a council liaison to the new Bicycle and Pedestrian Street Safety Commission, a five-member group of mayoral appointees who work with the city’s dept. of public works to ensure consistency in design and safety issues affecting bicyclists and pedestrians.

The group, Mayor Mike Wiza said, is advisory to the Stevens Point City Council.

The BPSSC on Tuesday reviewed the final plans for controversial Stanley St. project, which includes restriping the four-lane commercial arterial roadway into two 10-foot east/west lanes, a 14-foot two-way left-turn lane (TWTL), and five-foot bike lanes.

Plans also call for a four-way stop at the Minnesota Ave. and a new crosswalk at Clayton Ave.

Public Works Director Scott Beduhn told the commission at their 9 a.m. meeting on Aug. 1 that the construction plans for the roadway were completed at the direction of the city council. The proposal, formally introduced by Alderman David Shorr, was approved in May following several contentious public meetings on the issue, and despite concerns raised by Beduhn himself.

During an exclusive interview with the Metro Wire in July, Beduhn pointed to a final design review from local engineering firm AECOM, which highlighted concerns for safety over the proposed four-way-stop installation at the Minnesota Ave./Stanley St. intersection.

According to AECOM, the four-way stop will increase congestion on the road and cause traffic delays, and while it may reduce the severity of crashes on the roadway, it might also increase crash frequency.

“Installation of an AWSC (all-way-controlled intersection) at the intersection would restrict the free flow of traffic on the major arterial by creating significant delays during peak hours,” the memo reads in part.

Beduhn expressed similar concerns during previous meetings.

On Tuesday, McComb asked Beduhn if the plans could be altered to remove the four-way-stop Minnesota Ave. while the city conducts further study on the impacts of the new design.

“What’s put in these plans and otherwise set into motion, with Alder Shorr’s motion, was the all-way-stop,” Beduhn said, adding the city had already posted a notice for bids on the project, but that could be changed without any major problems or delays, though it would save the city “a few hundred or a few thousand” dollars, he said, depending on the bids returned Aug. 7.

Beduhn said if the plan moved forward “as is”, he’d suggest a phased-in approach.

Councilwoman Tori Jennings, who watched the meeting from the audience, agreed, saying, “in terms of receptivity for the community, doing things staggered might help.”

Jennings told the commission she met with an employee from Beduhn’s office, as well as an unnamed employee from the Wisconsin Dept. of Transportation who she referred to as the “state expert on road diets from the DOT” to discuss the four-way stop.

“I think the DOT expert was somewhat ambivalent, he could go either way,” Jennings said, “but I think he was leaning towards, ‘Why don’t you see what the striping does, and then put in the four-way?'”

Jennings also advised the commission, “Remember this is just signs stuck in the road.”

She also made reference to “two options” available.

“[One] would be to start out with the four-way-stop, and see how it works, and move the signs if it doesn’t work,” she said. “Or, go with the striping, and evaluate how that’s working. And if it’s not working, put in the four-way-stop. Again, it’s just signs. So let’s not over-complicate this.”

Jennings’ two options were not included in May’s resolution; nor were they on the agenda.

McComb said she was moved by AECOM’s findings.

“My thinking about this is also, I’d like to see us pull back on the four-way-stop for now and keep it as is,” she said, making a motion to recommend the project move forward without the four-way-stop included.

McComb’s motion received no second, so it died. The commission forwarded the recommendation to the Board of Public Works as previously approved in May.

Bids for the project will be opened by Beduhn’s office on Aug. 7, and will be forwarded to the Board of Public Works on Aug. 13. The matter comes to a final vote on Aug. 20 during the 7 p.m. meeting of Stevens Point City Council.