Shorewood — After a year of brainstorming and discussion, the Wilson Drive Task Force has identified its interests, concerns and priorities about the future of Wilson Drive, which is slated for reconstruction in 2018.
The committee of Shorewood residents, first convened in December 2015, consisted of a 13-person steering committee that sought input from four work groups dedicated to traffic and safety, environmental impacts, development and parks and recreation. They held roughly 20 meetings, including a June open house event that attracted 200 people and more than 130 pieces of written feedback.
Members of the task force and the public overwhelmingly rejected the idea of building residential or commercial properties on the west side of the street. After hearing negative feedback about development at the June open house, the Shorewood Village Board's strategic initiatives committee — which gives direction to the Wilson Drive Task Force — recommended the task force take development off the list of possible considerations.
With development off the table, the task force continued identifying its interests, concerns and priorities for the future of Wilson Drive. Some of the top priorities included preserving or expanding green space, creating two or more attractive entrances to Estabrook Park for pedestrians and bicyclists, providing recreational amenities, improving pedestrian crosswalks, improving bicycle safety and preserving biodiversity.
The task force also wanted to keep Wilson Drive as a major thoroughfare, to prevent traffic from backing up and spilling onto the more residential side streets on the western end of the village.
"It scares me to think of traffic being anymore congested," said resident Stephen Surridge, who feared a southbound car turning left onto Congress Street could back up traffic to Hampton Road in the morning commute.
The idea of keeping the road wide, however, is at odds with the task force's desire to expand green space on the west side of the street. That's why some members of the task force were interested in creating left turn lanes at Congress Avenue.
Much of the logistics of traffic needs have not been determined at this time. Several task force members said it was frustrating to come up with concepts without having an updated traffic study to determine whether the concepts were feasible. The last Wilson Drive traffic study was conducted in 2010.
Using ideas from the task force, a consulting firm called MSA Professional Services developed four roadway designs, including reconstructing the road at its existing width of 56 feet, keeping the road at 56 feet and adding a boulevard, slimming the road to 48 feet and slimming the road to 42 feet. All four scenarios include bike lanes, but in the boulevard scenario, bikes would share a lane with parked cars and bus stops. Wilson Drive currently has one lane of traffic in each direction and a shared lane for bikes, parked cars and bus stops.
If kept at 56 feet, the redesigned roadway would feature one lane of traffic in each direction, one bike lane in each direction and one parking lane with bus stops on each side of the street. The boulevard design would include one lane of traffic in each direction, one bike lane in each direction and one parking lane with bus stops on each side of the street. A 48-foot road would include one lane of traffic in each direction, one bike lane in each direction and one parking lane with bus stops on each side of the street. A 42-foot road would include one lane of traffic in each direction, one bike lane in each direction and one parking lane with bus stops on each side of the street.
In a straw poll, the Wilson Drive Task Force Steering Committee primarily favored the 42-foot roadway, due to the amount of extra green space. The committee secondarily favored the boulevard design, which would also add green space.
The task force and MSA presented its findings to the village board on Tuesday, Jan. 17. Originally, the board was planning to choose one of the four concepts at its Feb. 2 meeting, with the hope of sending out construction bids for a 2018 reconstruction. That timeline has been pushed back after several trustees requested a traffic study and other technical information be brought into the decision-making process.
At the next board meeting on Feb. 2, the board will consider sending out requests for proposals to engineering firms. The second part of that proposal would include combining the traffic study with the interests and concerns of the task force. Once a traffic study and other technical data is acquired, Strategic Initiatives Committee Chairman Paul Zovic said more public hearings will be held before the board selects a final road design.