La Crosse Moves to Recognize the NACTO Design Guide

La Crosse has been working to make bicycle and pedestrian travel safer and more convenient for many years.  The resolution to recognize  the National Association of City Transportation Officials Urban Bikeway Design Guide was approved at the Public Works Committee meeting last week, and now moves onto the City Council. It is the latest sign that the City is invested in considering the most progressive street designs for all road users. Milwaukee recognized the NACTO Guide in the 2010 update to their bike plan.

Local advocates take an annual Ride with Mayor Kabat to look at recent and future projects.

The NACTO guide was developed because the more traditional American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials Guide did not adequately address the needs of traffic engineering in urban area. The AASHTO guide, along with the Federal Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (The MUTCD) have been considered to be the bible of many traffic engineers, but had not kept pace with modern bicycle and pedestrian facilities, like protected bike lanes, bicycle boulevards, etc.

In recent years, the Federal Highway Administration has made its stance more flexible on design standards, issuing this FHWA Bicycle and Pedestrian Facility Design Flexibility Memorandum and some clarification on a number of the “13 controlling criteria,”  traffic engineers use for geometric design standards. This flexibility provides more appropriate design standards for urban, low speed, shared streets. La Crosse City are officially recognizing the NACTO design guide in the hope they will have more design flexibility on federally funded projects, which are typically bound to use only the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s own MUTCD and Facilities Development Manual, both based on the AASHTO guide.

Slow progress continues on two of the five  Neighborhood Greenways (sometimes also called Bicycle Boulevards) that were recommended in the 2012 La Crosse Bicycle Pedestrian Master Plan. The 17th Street Neighborhood Greenway is scheduled for design this winter and construction in 2017.  This includes the entire stretch from Farnham Street to State Street. Along with various pedestrian-friendly, traffic calming, and traffic control recommendations from the T.Y. Lin study, many of the blocks will also be reconstructed and repaved.  The final budget has not yet adopted by the Common Council, but is up for consideration this month.

Detail of map of 2012 La Crosse Bicycle Pedestrian Master Plan. The purple dashed lines on King ,17th, Farnham, 22nd, and Avon Street. West and King is marked as a “bicycle problem intersection”.

The King Street Neighborhood Greenway is a little more difficult to move forward. It intersects West Avenue or State Hwy 35, which makes it more difficult to cross and presents fewer choices for infrastructure changes. The Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee voted to accept Alternative C from the design plans created by T.Y. Lin. Alternative C involves restricting all left turns on West Avenue at King Street, and restricts all automobile movements to and from King Street as right in/right out. Two separate crossings for bicycles are located in cutouts in the median.

At the last Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee meeting there was a presentation that used the design created by T.Y. Lin and developed a plan for the streets west of West Avenue that would  fall within the $50,000 budget that has already be allocated for this project.  Although the committee seemed to accept the design, there wasn’t  a vote.

About Carolyn Dvorak, La Crosse Ambassador

Carolyn lives in Holmen with her husband and two daughters. She has loved riding a bicycle throughout her life. She enjoys working in the La Crosse area helping to create great places to bicycle.

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