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Consultants Recommend Sidewalks for Fisher Woods School Zone

Among the recommendations they'll make for the neighborhood south of three school on Center Street – it's time to install pedestrian walkways.

Sidewalks may need to be in the future of a Wauwatosa neighborhood that has never had them.

After accidents in which students were struck by cars, several Wauwatosa school zones were targeted for traffic safety studies.

One, Wauwatosa Avenue north of North Avenue, got a quick treatment this year after a boy's leg was severely fractured while he was crossing to get to Longfellow Middle School.

But even before that incident, the city and the Wauwatosa School District were looking at two other school areas where less serious accidents had occurred:

West Center Street between Mayfair Road and North 124th Street, where (from east to west) Whitman Middle School, West High School and Eisenhower Elementary School stand along the north side of Center; and North 100th Street near Madison Elementary School.

The city and school district agreed to each pay half the cost of hiring Ayres Associates, a firm with specialists in traffic engineering, to look at ways to improve safety in those zones.

Ayres will present its findings and recommendations Tuesday night to the Common Council's Traffic and Safety Committee, meeting at 7 p.m. at City Hall.

Ayres looked at traffic volume, flow and speeds at all times of day, focusing on the peak hours and especially morning school start times, when both motor and pedestrian traffic is heaviest and the accidents have occurred.

Through traffic did present a lot of problems. But the firm also looked closely at the behavior of parents and students, and found it wanting as well. Dozens of pictures show instances of risky acts by drivers passing through but also by parents dropping kids off and by kids and parents crossing.

Long lines of cars pose visibility problems. Parents stop where they aren't supposed to and open doors into traffic. Kids skip designated crossings – and ignore crossing guards – at their peril.

An idea whose time has come: sidewalks

In the case of Center Street, though, perhaps the overarching problem is simply the layout of the neighborhood: Fifty years ago, three schools were dropped into a space that was developing subdivisions styled for that era. It was just west of a corridor – Mayfair Road – that at the time wasn't that far removed from a country road.

To this day there are, in fact, no sidewalks in the residential area south of the schools.

That would change under Ayres' long-term recommendations. Much can be done, its engineers indicated, with paint and signs and "speed humps" and other measures. But in bold black lines on their recommended solution, sidewalks stand out.

Pictures, again, tell the story. Many parents, in order to avoid stopping on Center Street at all, approach on residential streets from the south and drop children off. They meander across grassy corner lots with no definition of where one should wait or cross. Students on foot amble up these streets either on the grass or in the street.

In the short term, Ayres recommends at least putting in concrete pads a few feet square at each corner to create a clearly defined pedestrian space.

Among other short-term fixes, the Ayres report will recommend much larger and bolder painted crosswalks and added signage for both pedestrians and motorists.

Besides sidewalks, longer term additions to the area ought to include a dedicated drop-off bay cut deeper into the curb in front of Eisenhower Elementary and the installation of "speed humps."

Unlike the familiar parking lot "speed bump," which will jar your teeth and your car's suspension at anything over 5 mph, "speed humps" are designed to be fairly benign up to 25 mph, above which they will give you a fair jolt.

The recommendations being presented by Ayres to the public at this point do not include either short- or long-term budgets for individual measures or for the whole package of measures. It will be up to the city to decide what to implement and when, and at what cost.

Ian December 11, 2012 at 01:40 PM
About time. I live with two kids by Eisenhower and none of the dozens of kids walking to school walk on the grass. It is very dangerous especially with the high school so close. Teens and parents routinely drive down my street doing 35+mph even with kids in the street. I am just surprised their isn't more accidents involving pedestrians.
3393 December 11, 2012 at 02:59 PM
Great. Now if they only would clear the snow on the existing pads so the crossing guards and kids don't have to stand in the road at West, Whitman and Eisenhower. The elderly guard at Eisenhower does his best to protect little ones standing in the street because his pad is covered with a snow mound. The steps across the street south of Whitman and the crossing guard area is never cleared for days after a snow. It consistently requires a parent phone call to get it done. Again, the guard and kids are in the road because snow not cleared. I won't charge a consultation fee for my advice, but when it snows, clear the areas at the crosswalks on the south side of Center street between Whitman and Eisenhower.
Mark December 11, 2012 at 03:25 PM
Yes while I agree there are issues with traffic on Center street by the schools they are mainly in the morning prior to the start of the school day and at the end of the school day as well as during events at the schools. But side walks are not the only solution. As stated in the artical "Parents stop where they aren't supposed to and open doors into traffic. Kids skip designated crossings – and ignore crossing guards – at their peril" and as stated by Ian "Teens and parents routinely drive down my street doing 35+mph even with kids in the street" Why not start enforcing the laws and ordinances this city has. If the police were more strict with handing out tickets on a regular basis for speeding, jay walking, violations of no stopping or standing and so forth a majority of the hazards just may go away because people will be forced to be responsible for their actions and stupidity by having to open up ther wallets and pay the piper. Another thing that should be done is parents start being responsible and teaching their kids the proper way to walk down a street when there are no side walks. The west side of the city has sort of a rural setting in the residential areas because there are no side walks, which is an attraction to some and may have been one of the many deciding factors to buying a home where they did. With that said. All options should be explored and exhausted before side walks go in. It will be us tax payers paying for it in the end.
Random Blog Commenter December 11, 2012 at 06:40 PM
The property owner adjacent to these new sidewalks, if built, needs to pay a good portion of the cost for them via special assessment, just as we with sidewalks in front of our homes pay for their repair when the city comes along and decides to fix them. These property owners also should shovel the snow and be held to the same standards those of us with city sidewalks are already held to.
Mark December 12, 2012 at 04:50 AM
So 3393 your saying the school does not shovel the walk way for days after a snow fall? I thought all snow had to be removed from side walks by noon the day after a snow fall. If this is in fact the case maybe the school board or school itself should be reminded of municiapl code 12.24.010 since it does not list any acceptions or exeptions from the code. Don't only just consider the special assesments for installing and repairing the sidwalk. Home owners that are in favor of sidewalks need to read section 12.20 of the municipal code to see what they could possibly be in for. In this section it does not state anywhere that the city is responsible for the cost of maintaining the sidewalks. It is all put on the home/property owner adjacent to the sidewalk.You also have to include yearly out of pocket expenses such as the gas for the snow blower or replacment of shovels, the salt that will have to be applied to keep it free of ice it is going to add up to more exspenses for us home and property owners that we currently don't have. .

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