In the wake of accident, city considers pedestrian safety improvement options

By Correne Martin

Within 24 hours of the July 18 crash that injured a 14-year-old bicyclist on Marquette Road, the Prairie du Chien city staff was discussing what could be done to improve pedestrian safety on the busy highway. Also within days, staff freshened the crosswalk paint at the Wells Street intersection where the incident occurred and installed two extra pedestrian alert signs at that location.

But the question the public has been asking since the accident is whether the city would do more to improve the safety of those crossing Marquette Road, and many have wondered if a pedestrian overpass could be installed.
According to City Administrator Aaron Kramer, who spoke about the issue during Tuesday night’s council meeting, estimated costs for such an overpass would be $1.2 million.

“Staff is saying that is not an option. It is simply not feasible,” Kramer stated. “The cost is astronomically prohibitive.”

In addition to cost being a hindering factor, Kramer said an overpass would have to extend over the railroad tracks on the west side of Marquette, which would mean pedestrians would have to cross the tracks to access an overpass. This would present another safety issue.

Further inhibiting factors for the overpass suggestion include the upcoming Marquette Road reconstruction projects of 2014 and 2017 as well as the fact that the Department of Transportation would have to be involved in discussions for such a proposal. Both of these points would delay any proposal for a number of years.

In knowing a pedestrian overpass is not a good option at this time, city staff has identified immediate and long-term options for bettering pedestrian safety.

Though no formal action was taken at Tuesday night’s council meeting, the group discussed the options and gave staff direction for action.

For the immediate future—in addition to the repainted crosswalk and two pedestrian alert signs installed—signs have been ordered asking bicyclists to step off their bikes and walk across the road, and additional random police patrols are planned at the Wells Street intersection. With the council’s direction, Kramer said he will also obtain cost figures on a High-intensity Activated crossWalK (HAWK) signaling system, which is a combination of a beacon flasher and traffic control signaling system. The city would have to find money in the budget for such a system, with no state assistance. Also, it would have to be taken out in 2017 when that portion of Marquette Road is torn up for reconstruction and then reinstalled afterward.

Additionally, the city will continue to be in contact with the Prairie du Chien school system about providing some assistance for offering the crossing guard program year-round. Currently, a crossing guard is staffed at the Wells Street intersection throughout the school year, but not during the summer—even when summer school is in session. Kramer said, for the past several years, school district administration has said the district has no funds to assist with the program.

Finally, city office staff and police hope to increase their educational and informational outreach about bike safety. To do this, they propose public service announcements, more handouts in the schools and the possibility of a liaison officer talking to classrooms about bike safety.

Several public residents addressed the common council Tuesday night about their concerns and recommendations. They included the mom of the injured 14-year-old Sara Shefelbine, Sheri Lechner, Teresa Champion, Jane Schaaf and Brianna Rieck.

Flood remediation
•A memo from Co-Public Works Manager Terry Meyer on the Jackson Street drainage ditch was discussed. Kramer told the council that the Crawford County Highway Safety Committee is meeting Wednesday, Aug. 14, and city staff will be present to discuss drainage issues on Highway 27 and other areas. No formal action taken.

•The council approved an amendment to the agreement with Vierbicher Associates for the Godden Pit Stormwater analysis. The scope of services in this amendment includes additional analysis of the Highway 27 watershed north of Godden Pit. The purpose is to evaluate alternatives and develop a recommended solution to reduce future flooding in the area between Godden Pit and Highway 27. The scope will also investigate potential funding sources for the project. The fee to provide the services is $12,500 and funds are coming from TID #5 or #6.

Sculpture park shelter

•The council granted permission for construction of a shelter at the Mississippi River Sculpture Park on St. Feriole Island, as well as naming rights for the new “Patrick and Janet Leamy Shelter.” The Leamys generously donated $30,000 toward the shelter and have been significant donors for the park since its beginning. There is not cost to the city for the shelter, which will be located on the north end of the park. The shelter will be flood resistant and accessible throughout the year. Construction is anticipated to be complete by November.

Closed session
•In action from closed session, the council voted unanimously to acknowledge and reject a claim by Nelson Mill and Agri-Center, Inc., Marquette Hayden Properties, LLC, and Dan Kanis against the city of Prairie du Chien.
According to Kramer, the city had expected the claim.

“The notice of claim is not considered to be a hostile act against the city. Dan and his business ventures are simply trying to protect their interests in the Block 43 development, and I respect their position,” Kramer said. “The city remains in a state of litigation with the former owner (Marty Rifken) and current owner (Tom Gialamas) of those properties, and is hopeful they will accept the offer to sit down and discuss the opposing viewpoints on ownership before this is potentially tied up in court action. I remain optimistic, and I know Dan and the common council do as well, that we will see a new store being constructed on the Block 43 site in 2014 as a key anchor for our downtown, and those important jobs will be retained.”

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