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District 19

Alder Keith Furman

Image of Alder Keith Furman,
Council President

Alder Keith Furman,
Council President

Contact Information

Council Office

Common Council Office:
210 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd
Room 417
Madison, WI 53703
Phone: (608) 266-4071
Fax: (608) 267-8669
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District 19 Blog

An update on the Lake Mendota Drive Road Reconstruction Project

March 28, 2022 11:09 AM

As most people in the Spring Harbor neighborhood know by now, The City of Madison is planning to reconstruct Lake Mendota Dr. Due to the size/scope of the work, this work will be completed over several years, with work being completed on several blocks each year.  In 2022, work is planned for the western most blocks, in 2023, the eastern blocks, and the middle blocks in 2024. The length of the total reconstructed street is just about 1.2 miles.

At Tuesday's Common Council meeting, a resolution will be introduced to approve the roadway geometry for reconstruction of Lake Mendota Dr. from Baker Ave. to the City of Madison limits at Shorewood. As a reminder, items are not open for debate by the public or Alders at first introduction to the Council, but will be referred to multiple committees for discussion by [resident] committee members and the public. Public comment in front of the council, Alder debate, and the Council vote will happen on April 19th. The City has scheduled another public information meeting for April 4th as well.

Originally, this resolution was expected to be introduced on March 15th and approved on March 29th, but the new timeline is for introduction on March 29th and approval at the April 19th council meeting.

This item will be referred to the Board of Public Works' meeting on April 6th and Transportation Commission meeting on April 13th. The public can sign up to comment at these meetings. Registration links will be available as we get closer to those meetings.

I wanted to provide a review of major past events involved in this project, as well as the future schedule. This is not an all-inclusive list. I've been discussing this project with neighbors and the neighborhood for many years. This doesn't include all the other engagement staff and I have done with individuals and small groups in the last few months, including via phone, in person and zoom meetings.

  • Past discussion on my blog:
    • 10/31/2021: link to new engineering page for the project, info on survey work that started
    • 11/5/2021: part of 2022 budget blog article
    • 12/19/2021: notice of 1/11/2022 Public Information Meeting (PIM) and survey
    • 1/10/2022: Reminder of 1/11/2022 PIM
    • 1/16/2022: Sharing of 1/11/2022 recording and presentation, review of project schedule (including future committee meeting dates)
    • 2/10/2022: Save the date for 2/24/2022 PIM
    • 2/13/2022: Another save the date for 2/24/2022 PIM
    • 2/14/2022: Registration link for 2/24/2022 PIM
    • 2/21/2022: Another reminder for 2/24/2022 PIM, link to survey results, link to existing conditions
    • 2/24/2022: Link to new survey, link to presentation for 2/24/2022 meeting, link to preliminary plan (that was set to be introduced to public that evening)
    • 3/6/2022: Reminder for 3/9/2022 Transportation Commission Meeting
    • 3/21/2022: Save the date for 4/4/2022 PIM
    • 3/28/2022: This post
  • Fall 2021: survey work to record current conditions
  • Late December: Postal mailed notice to residents on Lake Mendota Drive for 1/11/2022 PIM
  • 1/11/2022: 1st PIM for City to present project goals, existing conditions, existing City policies and procedures for road reconstruction and to hear from residents. This meeting lasted 2 hours and 33 minutes and included over 100 questions/comments
  • 1/12/2022: Transportation Commission received shorter version of 1/11/2022 presentation
  • Early Feb: Post cards mailed for 2/24
  • 2/24/2022: 2nd PIM for City to present preliminary plan and get feedback. This meeting lasted 2 hours and 53 minutes and had over 100 questions/comments
  • 3/9/2022: Preliminary Street Design for LMD to Transportation Commission (TC). Dozens of residents shared their concerns and feedback. TC indicated their support for the preliminary plan and asked for minor changes.
  • 3/28/2022: Revised plan released based on feedback

---

  • 3/29/2022: Introduction of geometry at Council Meeting (no discussion or debate)
  • 4/4/2022: 3rd Public Information Meeting
  • 4/6/2022: Geometry for LMD to Board of Public Works
  • 4/13/2022: Geometry for LMD to Transportation Committee
  • 4/19/2022: Geometry for LMD at Common Council for Approval
  • 4/29/2022: Mail Estimated Assessments, Public Hearing Notice for 2022 Project (estimated date)
  • 5/11/2022: BPW Public Hearing on 2022 Project (estimated date)
  • 5/24/2022: Common Council Hearing on 2022 Project (estimated date)
  • 6/9/2022: Bid 2022 Project (estimated date)
  • 8/1/2022: Begin Construction on 2022 Project (estimated date)
  • Winter 2022: Start public meetings for 2023 reconstruction project

There has been a great deal of misinformation spread about this project. I highly recommend reviewing the project page. It has recordings of the previous public information meetings, the presentations made at those meetings (which should answer a lot of questions) and the preliminary plan.

I wanted to take this opportunity to address some of the frequently asked questions/comments I've seen. I've interacted with many residents about this project. I appreciate that engagement and remain open to discussing all aspects of the project with anyone interested.

What does approving the roadway geometry mean?

The City of Madison Engineering Division is proposing a preliminary design through the entire extents of the planned projects, which includes: reconstruction of Lake Mendota Dr. to include curb and gutter and a typical street width of 24 ft. to 26 ft. to accommodate two-way vehicle and bike travel on the street with parking allowed on one side, and to include sidewalks as shown the preliminary plan (on one side on the westerly and easterly ends, and on both sides in the middle section), along with traffic calming measures such as, but not limited, to bump outs, traffic circles, and speed humps.

Slight modifications may be made as part of the detailed, final design for each project in order to accommodate additional tree protection or space for new tree plantings, modifications for stormwater treatment features such as terrace rain gardens, adjustments to the locations of traffic calming devices, preservation of historic and cultural resources, or as necessary due to grades/topography.

How does the updated plan differ from what was presented on 2/24?

  • New bump out at 5431 LMD (helps protect tree, provides traffic calming, and hopefully helps protect private rain garden)
  • New bump out at Merrill Springs (street will be even further away from the effigy mound, and more traffic calming)
  • Start narrowing LMD just east of boat launch instead of just east of Spring Ct. intersection
  • Was able to fit sidewalk along north side from Spring Ct. to Risser – sidewalk stays within existing pavement edge on that side
    • Now have continuous sidewalk along the north side
  • Additional narrowing from Spring Ct. to Risser, with widened areas to allow on-street parking and help fit in the sidewalk
  • Reduced the speed humps down to 2 (raised crossing is still in there) and moved them to more of the downhill areas
  • Save the white pine tree by the bathroom building in Spring Harbor park

Trees

One goal of this project was to always preserve the incredible tree canopy on Lake Mendota Drive. This goal was strongly endorsed in all the feedback we received on the project. City staff walked the entire project with the City's Forestry department to inventory the trees in the City's right-of-way. As part of this inventory, staff identified trees that need to be removed due to their health, trees that could be saved with a creative sidewalk design and trees that would have to be removed due to sidewalks.

In the plan, staff identified trees with health issues that would be removed regardless of the project with an X. Trees that are being removed due to sidewalk installation are identified with a X and red circle.

Tree Removal due to Sidewalks

Baker Ave to Capital Ave: There is 1 tree being removed (an invasive Black Locust).

From Capital Ave to Spring Ct: there is approximately 6 trees that will be remove at 5502 LMD from a large cluster of trees (some will remain in that cluster) and another invasive black locust at 5543 LMD.

Spring Ct to City limits (Shorewood): Possibly 1 at 4938 LMD, 2 at 4922 LMD, ~1 from a cluster of trees at 4918, and ~2 from a cluster of trees at 4900.

Over a 1.2 mile stretch, this is incredible work by Engineering and Forestry staff to balance safety, accessibility, equity, and trees.

The claim that a large number of trees will be removed due to sidewalk implementation is simply untrue. Out of hundreds of trees in this stretch, fewer than 15 will be removed due to the addition of sidewalks.

Process / Plan

Like all road reconstruction projects in our city, Lake Mendota Drive has been treated with an incredible level of detail based on the City's long-established policies and procedures for these types of projects. That includes understanding the unique aspects of topography of the area and working to make sure the new configuration addresses safety, accessibility, and equity concerns.

Although I've been talking to people and the neighborhood association about this project for years, the project page on the City's website wasn't launched until late October. The project was in the Mayor's [proposed] Executive 2022 Capital budget released in September.

The City has had a long-standing policy that guides street reconstruction projects and it requires that safety and accessibility be prioritized in all project. An equitable society is one in which safety and freedom of movement are accessible to all and when it comes to street design, that means including sidewalks wherever possible. This is a significant part of the City's policy.

It's understandable that people were not familiar with that piece of the policy prior to the January 11th meeting, because unless you've lived in a reconstruction area before or have particular interest in these policies, why would you need to know that? However, it seems that people conflated the explanation of this policy with the idea that the city had a full plan prepared all along. In fact, an extraordinary level of effort went into developing a specific plan for Lake Mendota Drive, with the goal of including sidewalks where possible. That plan has since been modified in several significant ways in response to community feedback.

In short, whether or not sidewalks were going to be part of the plan was never up for debate, but that is not the same as saying the plan as a whole was pre-decided. The inclusion of sidewalks is not up for debate because sidewalks in cities (and we live in a city) are necessary for maximizing freedom of movement for children, the elderly, and people with disabilities.

In addition, though there has been a great deal of protest against sidewalks, primarily for aesthetic reasons, I have received communications from residents who shared their desire for sidewalks and who do not currently walk in the neighborhood because they feel unsafe. Some have shared that they have felt too intimidated by the tenor of conversation in the neighborhood to share those sentiments publicly. I will be honest – this is infuriating and heartbreaking to me. I also live on Lake Mendota Drive, and I want to live in a neighborhood where people feel empowered to share their concerns and positions as neighbors who all care for our community.

There will always be give and take in any project like this and there will always be some people who are dissatisfied. I understand that and it's why I work so hard to respond to every resident who reaches out to me. I will continue to do. If you would like to discuss this project, or any other, please reach out. 

Environmental Concerns

I was appointed Alder of District 19 on August 7, 2018. Less than 2 weeks into my term, District 19 experienced incredible flooding due to a huge rainstorm. I had already entered the job worried about the effects of climate change on our City and that event became a defining moment. That wasn't the first time the City experienced flooding and certainly not the last time, but after that I supported substantial investments in stormwater mitigation. I have continued to support our engineering department in their water quality and stormwater management efforts. That includes attending numerous small and large neighborhood meetings and spearheading support for large financial efforts towards mitigation. Additionally, I have worked with the Water Utility to investigate and mitigate the rapidly increasing salt content at Well 14.

Lake Mendota Drive is not a large contributing factor to salt in Well 14. University Ave and the Hilldale commercial area are the largest contributing factors by a large margin. The plan for reconstruction does not add more pavement by adding sidewalks. Due to the narrowing of the street, even with the proposed sidewalks, the plan actually has less pavement ((existing 25,900 S.Y. vs 24,800 S.Y. in 3/29/2022 plan). That's even before we consider permeable alternatives to concrete for this project, which will be considered.

In addition to alternative to concrete for sidewalks, staff is exploring some unique ways to further decrease salt usage on Lake Mendota Drive. I hope to share more details on that soon.

Staff will also work to promote alternatives to salt for sidewalks.

Burial Mounds

There are a number of mounds and areas of archaeological significance along Lake Mendota Drive, but Lake Mendota Drive as a whole is not on the National Register of Historic Places. The City has contracted with an archaeologist to help research known areas, provide design recommendations, and when necessary, obtain required permits. If required, an archaeologist will also be on site to monitor construction in these areas.

There is no indication that the City can't narrow the street and add sidewalks due to the historic nature of the neighborhood.

The City is also in touch with the Ho-Chunk Nation to explore ways to recognize the uniqueness of the area.

Next Steps for the Plan

As noted above, after a several week delay, this project will be up for approval in April. The full schedule is above but here are some highlights.

In addition to the private meetings staff and I continue to have, the public will have an opportunity to review and comment on the latest changes at the upcoming public information meeting on 4/4/2022.

Staff will go over the plan at the Board of Public Works on April 6th. The public can testify at that meeting. The Board of Public Works, which is comprised of City of Madison residents, will make a recommendation at that meeting.

Staff will go over the plan at the Transportation Commission on April 13th. The public can testify at that meeting. Transportation Commission, which is comprised of City of Madison residents, will make a recommendation at that meeting.

I will continue to work with staff to address feedback from the public and those boards, and if necessary, revise the plan before it comes before the Common Council on April 19th. On April 19th, the Council will take up the item. The public can register to speak at the meeting.

-Keith F




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