It's a cliche to say the more things change the more they stay the same, but that's exactly what happened at the most recent meeting of the Waukesha Common Council.
The council voted unanimously May 17 to modify the city's Downtown Integrated Street Master Plan to maintain Gaspar Street, which had been slated for a redesign under the plan, as a two-way road. The city originally planned to reconstruct the street as a one-way northbound road, which would have moved traffic toward Main Street from Broadway and South streets.
The city's plan commission previously recommended approval of the amendment after public outcry over the proposed redesigns prompted the city to scrap those ideas and leave the road as it is — with one exception.
Waukesha is still required to upgrade the Gaspar Street sidewalks to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which specifies that sidewalks must be 41/2 feet wide. Under the two-way option, the terrace width will only be 51/2, leaving the city uncertain if there will be any room for new trees or extra streetscape amenities.
However, City Planner Maria Pandazi said at the meeting that the city will consider its options to enliven the sidewalk.
The redesign of Gaspar Street, a one block roadway from Main Street to Broadway, was part of the city's larger overhaul of downtown's roads and streetscapes that began in 2014.
There were three reconstruction proposals presented to the public: change Gaspar Street to a one-way street, preserve two-way traffic or create a pedestrian plaza.
Opposition to the one-way option was linked to the negative perception of one-way streets in downtown Waukesha, which was largely configured with single-direction streets when a replica spring house stood in the middle of the Five Points intersection. (A 1998 master plan for downtown recommended the elimination of those one-way streets.)
The plaza option met resistance out of concerns that it would impede traffic circulation, especially near the public parking structure on South Street, Pandazi said.
In response to that opposition, city staff decided to recommend maintaining Gaspar as a two-way street.
'Perhaps we can find other places downtown where we can create very meaningful gatherings,' Pandazi said.
The city is in the third of its seven-year road reconstruction project, and while the Gaspar redesign was not scheduled until 2020, the intersection of West Main and Gaspar was within the boundaries for this year's project. That's why a redesign was being discussed.
Months of construction closed traffic from West Broadway to Wisconsin Avenue in 2014, and last year the city overhauled West Main Street from Clinton Street to Wisconsin Avenue as well as Maple Avenue (from Main to Wisconsin).
This year construction has taken over West Main Street from Clinton all the way to Barstow Street. That project is scheduled to be completed by the end of July.