City streets to switch direction

Crossing from the Union Sports Annex to the Alumni Memorial Union will take a few extra minutes this spring.

Work is underway to convert Wells and State streets from the accustomed one-way direction to two-way streets. The Milwaukee Department of Public Works is rewiring and installing new traffic signals now to accommodate the later change.

The changes to State and Wells streets were supported by, among others, Marquette University and the Avenues West Association. The measure was passed by the Milwaukee Common Council in June, led by 4th District Ald. Paul Henningsen. State and Wells streets will be two-way between North 11th Street and North 35th Street.

City Engineer Jeff Polenske said the conversion will provide better accessibility to businesses and encourage safer driving. He said drivers will have to pay more attention now while driving.

“I support it 100 percent,” said Dalat Dalat, manager of Kampus Foods, 1414 W. Wells St. “I don’t know if it will be wide enough for two-way traffic.”

June Moberly, executive director of the Avenues West Association, said residential and business builders have indicated they would build if the streets were converted.

Polenske said the actual conversion will not happen until next May because the city does not want to stripe the streets and put up traffic barrels during the winter, which could create snow-related traffic problems. The city will work on changing light signals during the fall and winter. When the conversion is complete, two lanes will be going eastbound and one lane westbound.

“There will be an adjustment period for pedestrian and vehicle traffic alike,” said Department of Public Safety Associate Director Capt. Russ Shaw. He said students have to be cognizant of the change and remember to look both ways when crossing, especially against the light.

Fifteenth District Ald. Tom Nardelli does not support doing the conversion now, and thinks the conversion should wait until work to the Marquette Interchange is complete.

“Converting (the lanes) at this point in time will only create more gridlock,” he said.

Nardelli is also upset there was no public forum to discuss the conversion. He said a forum was held, but attended only by conversion proponents because they were the only ones invited.

“I think there will be people very upset and feel this has been done behind their backs and in this case it was,” he said. He went on to warn there will be “hell to pay” for converting the streets now.

Mark Miller, a delivery driver for Jimmy John’s, 1532 W. Wells St., said he does not support the change and “thinks it’s a horrible idea” because as it stands “you can go from 16th to the lake in 30 seconds.” The store’s manager, Ryan Cortese, also does not support the change and likes having Wells as a one-way street.

“There is no indication that this will create more traffic,” said Ben Tracy, director of university communication. “Critics are upset because they can’t speed through the Marquette campus going in and out of the city.”

Meanwhile, work on the Marquette Interchange is progressing as planned, according to the director of the state’s Marquette Interchange team Don Reinbold. A recently announced plan for the design of the interchange will save the state $80 million. Design changes include reducing lanes from two to one on two different ramps, modifying the high-rise bridge shoulders to match existing widths and changing both the western and southern construction limits.

Reinbold said the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s Web site will be interactive when construction begins in April 2004, and will include updates on lane and ramp closures, and will offer best routes for specified locations. For interchange frequenters, an e-mail list will be established to notify people of changes in routes as ramps are opened and closed.

Finally, the Park East Freeway will be completely demolished and cleared away by the end of the year. Demolition began in June 2002, said Bill Zaferos, a spokesman for the Department of City Development.