Is it time for a diet?

Posted By: Brian Wilson Blog,
Wellness in the form of trimming travel lanes; rejuvenates a community.

Written by: Brian Wilson, PE, EMCS Inc.

The City of Milwaukee is committed to the safety and wellbeing of its communities. The City recently invested in a “wellness plan” for the South 60th Street corridor.  The roadway desperately needed repair due to poor pavement condition and a rough ride quality.  Other challenges included:

  • A crash rate higher than similar roadways
  • Limited left turn lanes and outdated traffic signals and
  • Poor pedestrian and bicycle accommodations. 

The City of Milwaukee knows that maintaining healthy roadways supports a healthy community. Their wellness plan for this project resolved the above challenges and more!

The City of Milwaukee seized this opportunity to reimagine the South 60th Street corridor and improve safety, walkability, bikeability, and increase neighborhood cohesiveness with a right-sized solution to meet the needs of both today’s and tomorrow’s users.  

The reconstruction project called for a road diet that reinvigorated the corridor.  A road diet was possible because the traffic volumes for the corridor were below the levels anticipated when the roadway was originally designed over 50 years ago.  

Because a 4-lane roadway was no longer needed,  the road diet eliminated one travel lane in each direction. The reclaimed space was now available to add bike lanes and additional green space on the outside of the roadway between the parking lane and sidewalk. The reallocation of space within the roadway footprint met the needs of vehicular traffic while optimizing the safety, mobility, and livability of all users.

The City understood that proposing a reduction of travel lanes on an arterial roadway could be met with skepticism by some. The City supported an extensive public involvement program to facilitate community engagement, understanding and ultimately buy-in of this uncommon design solution.

When all was said and done, the road diet design was selected for reconstruction. The “road diet wellness plan” delivered many benefits for the community:

  • Accommodation of current and future traffic,
  • Crash reduction while providing a raised median which accommodates protected left turns,
  • Bike lanes for cyclists, and
  • Safe approaches for crossing pedestrians.

In addition to maintaining the residential neighborhood character, the redesign and reconstruction also created social benefits for the community. The aesthetics are more appealing with wider green spaces and added landscaping and planters. The roadway is now more bike- and pedestrian-friendly with the added bike lanes, reconstructed sidewalk, new ADA-compliant curb ramps, and added curb extensions at intersections which reduces the distance required for pedestrians to cross the street. 

This reconstruction also delivered many positive environmental improvements including:

  • Minimal impact to mature trees along the corridor.
  • Stormwater runoff reduction due to the added green space and decrease in impervious area.
  • Improved pedestrian and bicycle accommodations which allow for a variety of modes of travel.
  • Reduced energy consumption with LED lighting.
  • Planter beds for the median.

The uncommon design also provides flexibility for tomorrow’s users. South 60th Street was built wide enough through the key West Oklahoma Avenue intersection to restripe the intersection in the future to provide additional travel lanes to accommodate higher traffic.

The City of Milwaukee reinvigorated South 60th Street. Their “community wellness project” demonstrated the City of Milwaukee’s commitment to safety, the environment, and livability. The City of Milwaukee’s South 60th Street reconstruction project and road diet is a ready example for other municipalities as they analyze and reimagine corridors to meet vehicular needs while enhancing walkability, bikeability and green space in their communities.

About the Guest Blogger

Brian Wilson, PE, is a Vice President at EMCS, Inc. where he leads the Milwaukee transportation group.  Brian has 26 years of experience in Wisconsin transportation planning, design, construction, project management, and public involvement. He is actively involved in the engineering industry through ACEC. He is currently serving on the WisDOT Estimating User Group, was recently elected to ACEC WI Transportation Steering Committee, and previously served on the WisDOT Roadway Reconfigurations (“Road Diets”) Team. EMCS is a full-service civil engineering firm providing professional planning, design, and construction services to both the public and private sector. 

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