Next week Monday there will be a very important public involvement meeting (PIM in government speak) to get public comment on the WisDOT feasibility study for a bicycle path on the Hoan Bridge. It is vitally important supporters of the project turn out for the meeting to demonstrate steadfast support for this once in a generation opportunity to remove the biggest barrier in our 160 mile long Lake Michigan Trail Network from Chicago to Sheboygan. The world is run by people who show up, so please don’t miss this opportunity to impact the future of Milwaukee and Wisconsin’s vitality, competitiveness and world standing.
I-794 Public involvement meeting (PIM)
November 14, 2011 – Public meeting is scheduled from 5-7 p.m. at the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) downtown office building 1001 West St. Paul Avenue, Milwaukee, to review the draft feasibility study report.
- Free parking available outside the building
- For bus route information, visit www.ridemcts.com
- Open house meeting with a presentation at 5:15 p.m.
- WisDOT project team will be available to discuss the analysis and receive comments
- Study does not contain a recommended alternative
- For more information and to submit a comment
- To read the draft report
Just as important as showing up is having a good understanding of the issues and making intelligent comments based on facts. The Hoan Bridge issue is often heatedly discussed in an information vacuum. In order to clear the fog of political dogma, I have provided a few responses to common objections to the project. These talking points are based on facts taken from WisDOT studies and Federal Highway Administration policies.
It’s too much money
It’s prudent to choose the the least expensive option, and we encourage WisDOT and the Federal Highway Administration to look at ways to lower that cost. For instance, if it saves money, bicyclists would be happy with a narrower path than the proposed 14 ft.
At $9.4 million, the least expensive alternative is less than 3% of the total $350 million Hoan redecking project, well below the FHA 20% threshold for exception to their requirement that such projects include bicycle accommodations. While $9.4 million is a an expensive bicycle project, that investment needs to be weighed against the potential return. The Hoan will remove the biggest barrier in the 163 mile-long Lake Michigan Trail Network, significantly increasing the value of these state assets.
Finally, it’s also important to note that the redecking project will increase the life of the structure by 40-60 years. This investment ($350 million and less than $10 million for the bicycle connection) will provide for generations of use and value.
It is a freeway
No federal law prohibits bicycles on freeways or interstate highways. In fact, bikes are allowed on more than 40 Interstate highways and bridges in the US, including two bridges on I-94 in Wisconsin.
On the contrary, federal law actually requires the consideration of bicycle and pedestrian travel. The federal statute on bicycle planning and pedestrian planning, 23 U.S.C. 217(g), states:
(g) Planning and Design.—
- In General — Bicyclists and pedestrians shall be given due consideration in the comprehensive transportation plans developed by each metropolitan planning organization and State in accordance with sections 134 and 135, respectively. Bicycle transportation facilities and pedestrian walkways shall be considered, where appropriate, in conjunction with all new construction and reconstruction of transportation facilities, except where bicycle and pedestrian use are not permitted.
- Safety considerations — Transportation plans and projects shall provide due consideration for safety and contiguous routes for bicyclists and pedestrians. Safety considerations shall include the installation, where appropriate, and maintenance of audible traffic signals and audible signs at street crossings.
Nobody will use it
You cannot measure demand for a bridge by counting the number of people currently swimming across the river. That goes for car drivers as well as cyclists. That said, our most recent user counts on the trails that dead end at the south and north approaches of the Hoan Bridge showed 80,000 bicyclists, runners, dog walkers, roller bladers, etc. using the trails in the month of October. While not all those people will go across the bridge, it is reasonable to assume that the path will induce additional people to come, just to be able to go over the bridge.
Another strategy is to point to well‐designed bridges that have large numbers of bicyclists and walkers. Advocates in the San Francisco Bay Area got a bike path included on the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge by using bike counts on the Golden Gate Bridge: 220‐250 bikes per hour. Twenty percent of all of the traffic on the Hawthorne Bridge in Portland, OR is made up of bicyclists. New York City’s bridges carry nearly 40,000 inbound cyclists per day in the spring, summer, and fall.
Traffic is too heavy to lose a lane
These are direct quotes from WisDOT’s own study:
“Note that speeds on the bridge drop one mile per hour, from 53 to 52 mph due to the bikeway. The bridge is currently posted at 50 mph, so traffic continues to operate at a higher speed than the speed limit.”
“In the range of traffic that we’d expect on the Hoan in 2020, 4 lanes or 6 makes no difference. The Hoan Bridge will have less traffic than any 6-lane freeway in Southeastern Wisconsin — about 1,500 ADT less than the lowest 6-lane freeway US Hwy. 41 in Germantown.”
It wouldn’t be safe
All studies done by the Wisconsin Dept. of Transportation say there are no safety reasons to prohibit bicycles on the bridge. The path would likely be safer than any on-street facility in Wisconsin because it will be separated from traffic with a 42 inch high concrete parapet wall. These are the same walls that separate the two oncoming lanes of traffic on the interstate. Wind has been proven not to be an issue. Wind affects bicycles much differently than vehicles traveling 50 mph.
The Bottom Line
Bicycling is good for Wisconsin. It adds $1.5 billion to the state’s economy. It provides 13,000 jobs. Bicycling is one of the things that makes our state a great place to live. Cities that want to attract and retain a talented young workforce need to be vibrant, active communities. The heads of more than 40 businesses, from our largest corporations to main street storefronts, have signed letters to the Governor in support of a bike path on the Hoan because a bike path on the Hoan would be good for their businesses. Bicycling is free of politics. Conservatives ride bikes. Liberals ride bikes. Libertarians ride bikes.
Since Wisconsin built the nation’s first rail trial, the Elroy Sparta in 1967, we have distinguished ourselves as a great place to bike and we have attracted visitors from around the world. Connect our extensive Lake Michigan Trail Network over the Hoan to solidify Wisconsin’s reputation and enhance it’s value for the next generation and beyond.