Posted on Wednesday, Jul. 14, 2021 at 3:45 pm
I am writing with great sadness today because there has been another traffic fatality on E. Washington, out by American Parkway.
Not a single traffic death is acceptable.
The city is committed to improving the safety of all our residents and we will not stop until we eliminate all the traffic fatalities that we are able to with design, education and enforcement.
Our Vision Zero initiative is designed to do just that. This requires a comprehensive, collective approach; one that is centered on redesigning high injury streets, and bolstered by partnerships, education and enforcement.
I want to give you some back ground on the East Washington situation. E. Washington Ave (US-151) is part of the state highway system and is under the jurisdiction of the State of Wisconsin in addition to the City of Madison. E. Washington Ave is classified as a major arterial for traffic in the region, and it normally handles over 50,000 vehicles a day. City staff has been in communication the state to discuss how we can better partner on safety improvements.
As part of our Vision Zero initiative, the City already reduced the speed limit on two sections of E. Washington Ave (25 mph Capitol to Baldwin St and 30 mph Baldwin St to Marquette St), added high visibility crosswalk markings where there are more pedestrian activities, and installed signal timing changes to curb speeding. In addition to traffic signal timing changes, speed limit reduction and high visibility crosswalks, the city is installing improvements such as pedestrian flashing beacons, speed boards and additional pedestrian signage. The city is also installing bollards at the E. Washington-Livingston intersection to form a better protected pedestrian island.
The City is also starting to implement much more aggressive transportation demand management programs to reduce our collective reliance on single occupancy vehicles. The long term goal is to have fewer traffic lanes and better accommodations for other users such as transit, pedestrians and bicycles on E Washington Ave. Bus Rapid Transit is part of the plan. Its frequent, rapid service will attract riders out of cars and onto transit. In the meantime, we have to be very mindful on the potential negative safety and quality of life impacts of diverting the traffic away from E. Washington, especially to nearby neighborhood residential streets.
More dramatic changes to the design of the street are complicated issue that take time, and likely tens or hundreds of millions of dollars. We are just getting started, and won’t stop looking for more and better solutions. Instead of waiting for bigger changes that will take longer, the city is committed to doing what we can do now to make progress.
Right now we are facing some unique issues. With a lower volume of cars on our streets due to the pandemic and increased telecommuting, drivers are moving faster and weaving in and out of traffic. Racing on E. Washington has increased and MPD is addressing that with stepped up enforcement, especially at night and on the weekends. MPD stopped 51 reckless drivers on Monday alone, issuing 25 citations. From Friday to Sunday, officers stopped 39 people. But it will be hard to enforce our way out of this multifaceted problem.
To make progress on Vision Zero, we need everyone’s help. You daily choices matter, especially when you get behind the wheel. We need to slow down, pay attention, and look out for each other. If you know a friend is impaired, don’t let them get behind the wheel. Drive them home or put them in a cab. If you have friends that regularly speed through town, ask them to stop. Tell them how awful they would feel if they killed or injured someone. We are in this together, so let’s work together to change our safety culture.
I want your ideas about promoting safety on East Washington and on other hazardous streets - you can contact me at Mayor@CityofMadison.com.