City officials have apparently heard the people of Waukesha loud and clear: no more one-way streets.
After a concept to alter the two-way Gaspar Street to a one-way street in downtown Waukesha was met unfavorably, Waukesha city planner Maria Pandazi said the city is now quickly changing course.
The city's community development department will recommend that the city's redevelopment authority amend the Downtown Integrated Street Master Plan, a component of the Downtown Master Plan that was approved in 2012, to reflect the new preference for the Gaspar Street redesign. That recommendation will then go before the plan commission and common council, Pandazi said.
'Many people were concerned about a one-way street hampering (vehicular) circulation,' Pandazi said. 'The feedback we received was overwhelmingly against a one-way street.'
Reacting to a plan
The redesign of Gaspar Street, a one block roadway from Main Street to Broadway, is part of the city's larger overhaul of downtown's roads and streetscapes that began in 2014.
The city is in the third of the seven-year road reconstruction project. While the complete redesign of Gaspar was not slated until 2020, the intersection of West Main and Gaspar are within the boundaries for this year's project.
So after it was mentioned at an informational meeting last December on this year's project that the city was planning on changing Gaspar to a one-way street — directing traffic to the north toward Main Street from the intersection of Broadway and South streets — downtown stakeholders began expressing their trepidations.
Pandazi said her department received plenty of feedback on the issue. As a result, the city added two additional alternatives to the discussion and presented them during a recent meeting at city hall.
The three options for the redesign were to change Gaspar Street to a one-way street, preserve two-way traffic, or create a pedestrian plaza that Pandazi said would have given the city a unique amenity where public events could have been held.
It didn't take long to realize what the people wanted and didn't want.
'These (choices) were all part of the discussion for getting feedback,' Pandazi said.
Pandazi added the city is required to upgrade Gaspar Street to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which specifies that sidewalks must be 41/2 feet wide. Given that the sidewalks would have to be altered, the city looked to find ways to increase pedestrian circulation.
That's why the city preferred a one-way option. With only one road lane, there would have been more room for pedestrian circulation and street trees, while still maintaining some level of vehicular circulation through downtown. Under this option, the terrace width would have increased to 8 feet.
In comparison, after Clinton Street was redesigned in 2014 the sidewalks were increased to 5 feet wide with a 7-foot wide terrace.
'It would have provided a better pedestrian experience, including the ability to have outdoor dining,' Pandazi said.
Under the two-way option, the terrace width will only be 51/2 feet, leaving the city uncertain if there will be any room for new trees or extra streetscape amenities.
'We need to widen the sidewalks because they are very, very narrow,' Pandazi said. 'But adding any amenities and trees might not be possible between the sidewalk and the curb with this selection.'
Extra trees and a wider terrace, however, weren't necessarily on the minds of most people outside of city hall.
'We haven't had one-way streets in more than 10 years, but many have said there's still a perception that there are one-way streets,' Pandazi said. 'So people were just really concerned.'
Alderman Erik Helgestad, who represents the downtown area, was pleased with the community input throughout this process.
'We had a great turnout at the information meeting, with a number of residents, property owners, and business owners who attended,' he said. 'The voice shared was almost unanimous that they wished to see the street remain two-way traffic for a number of reasons. Public Works and Community Development did a great job laying out the options available, along with their advantages and disadvantages.'