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City plans sidewalks length of Grow Avenue

Neighbors have complained of speeding drivers there for years.

Straight, sporadically noisy and surrounded by frustration, Grow Avenue stretches out like an exclamation point.

Residents there have long complained that the street has become a de facto arterial for speeding ferry traffic.

That, along with the absence of sidewalks, caused Grow neighbors to band together a few years ago in search of solutions, the latest incarnation of which will be on display at an open house at 6 p.m. April 17 at City Hall.

City engineer Bob Earl said the plan is in the early design stage, the result of a series of public meetings and workshops.

“We’re really trying to encourage the community to get involved,” Earl said. “We don’t want people sitting in the dark now only to see the final product and think it stinks.”

The next step in that process comes Monday when plans for the initial stage – which will include a new combination sidewalk/non-motorized path along the east side of the street – will be subjected to public scrutiny.

The city originally wanted meandering sidewalks, but Earl said steep driveways would have forced expensive re-grading, so portions of the sidewalk are straight.

Traffic calming measures, a top priority of residents, would come later, though the city did temporarily test several different options with varying degrees of success.

“We’ll have artists at the meeting who can listen to suggestions and draw them into the plans,” Earl said. “That way people will get some instantaneous feedback.”

The initial phase would be funded by a $460,000 grant, though Earl said the optimal cost for the project is between $300,000 and $400,000.

“This is something that should be important to every one who uses the street, not just people who live here,” said Grow Avenue resident Don Willot.

A city Non-Motorized Trans­portation Advisory Com­mittee member who works with neighborhoods and the city to implement bike paths and sidewalks, Willot said he was most concerned with calming traffic on Grow.

Many complain the street is prone to sudden torrents of traffic, particularly around rush hour as motorists en route to the ferry try to avoid Madison by detouring to Grow.

“There’s a real lack of credibility with the city,” said Grow resident Bob Conoley. “They’ve been talking about doing something for three years.”

Conoley said he knew of several people who couldn’t stand living with traffic noise there.

Resident Barry Griffin said temporary speed bumps installed by the city forced people to slow down, at least until they proceeded by them.

“It was noisy,” he said. “People would be flying down the road and then they would brake hard and accelerate quickly. With big trucks especially, the noise was terrible.”

Earl said speed tables, a more gradual version of the speed bump, was the city’s preferred method for calming, but only if they were installed in pairs.

“They have to be placed in such a way that they don’t just slow people down temporarily,” he said.

Temporary islands jutting into the roadway were also tried.

Griffin said he would prefer it if the speed limit were lower.

“It should be lowered from 25 to 15,” he said. “Unfortunately, most people go 40 or more.”

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