A Potential Stimulus Horror Story from Franklin, Wisconsin

Some disturbing news about stimulus spending on roads comes to us from Streetsblog Network member blog Sprawled Out, which covers the city of Franklin, WI. In that Milwaukee suburb, according to Sprawled Out’s John Michlig, local bureaucrats are potentially on track to use stimulus funds to widen a local street in a particularly destructive way:

20090310_d73ba2i6br9kf9mn16pjgcjj8k.preview.jpgThe plan: Use stimulus dollars to make this road wider, faster, bigger. Photo from Sprawled Out.

Once again, the "answer" for a poorly street-planned community is to take another of the plat-level streets to gargantuan, pedestrian-killing width; a residential area roadway designed to freeway standards. Another place-killing notch in the Franklin landscape that will make this community that much more vehicle-centric — a drive-thru non-place with no appeal.

But. gosh, you can sure whiz right through.

Just what local business needs, huh? Cars WHIZZING by rather than a walkable environment that encourages lingering — and spending, and returning.

51st street badly needs shoulders and a walking/bike lane — that will require widening as well, but nothing so extreme as the four-lane variety and a much better, forward-looking use for stimulus funds. 51st does not need more vehicle lanes, and it does not need a faster speed limit.

But here’s what’s so incredibly heartening about the members of our network, now nearly 250 strong: Michlig is going to do everything within his power as a citizen and as a blogger to prevent this plan from simply sliding into place. In an update to his original post on the widening, Michlig wrote about a meeting he had with Franklin’s mayor…

A bit of good news, perhaps: A conversation with Franklin’s Mayor Thomas Taylor reveals that he personally in not in favor of a four-lane widening.…Do I believe the 4-lane option would/will be the only plan forwarded if not for some timely intercession? ABSOLUTELY.…

So now the challenge is clear: In order to pursue the forward-thinking and economically-rewarding plan of utilizing stimulus funds for creating pedestrian and bike utility and safety rather than "business as usual" rote street-widening, it’s vital to get involved in the process early, as I plan to do.

We’ll keep you posted on developments. And if you’re in or near Franklin, head over to Michlig’s blog and connect with him there to help stop this default plan before it becomes reality. You can also find him on Twitter as @SprawledOut.

Elsewhere around the network: Bike Portland covers Rep. Earl Blumenauer’s call for a strengthening of the bike commuter tax benefit; Bike Denver looks at "Share the Road" campaigns and what they mean for bike-car relations; and Mobilizing the Region reports on the call for congestion pricing in Connecticut.

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