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Suamico board favors sidewalk concept for Riverside Drive

By Kevin Boneske
Staff Writer

SUAMICO – After having staff speak with business owners along Riverside Drive between Velp Avenue and Side Street, the village board agreed Monday, Oct. 21, to pursue a sidewalk concept for improving the area.

Board members also approved having GRAEF put together a Multimodal Local Supplement (MLS) grant application for the project to submit to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation for a fee not to exceed $6,000 with the expense being paid out of the Tax Incremental Financing District No. 2 fund.

Two weeks earlier, the board directed staff to contact individuals with a stake in the historic downtown section of Suamico to find out if they favored what’s known as a woonerf design laid out for slowing down the flow of traffic or a simpler layout with sidewalk, curb, gutter and decorative lighting along Riverside Drive.

Village Administrator Alex Kaker said he was able to speak with multiple property owners along that section of Riverside Drive and all favored either the woonerf design or the sidewalk concept.

“One concern I did get about the woonerf concept was that because we would have to lower the speed limit – likely 5 mph, maybe 15 – is that you’re going to maybe deter traffic from going down Riverside Drive, which has its pros and cons,” Kaker said. “We do want to get cars off the road for pedestrian traffic, but some of those businesses really want more vehicle traffic, just drive-by traffic – it’s good for business.”

Besides the effect the woonerf concept would have on vehicle speed, board members and staff also discussed concerns about being able to maintain that section of roadway, particularly in the winter with snow removal.

“I see a lot of in-and-out, not-straight lines, things for them to go around, things for them to hit, things to go bad in five years,” said Trustee Dan Roddan.

Roddan said he would favor a blacktop road with a sidewalk along Riverside Drive.

“I think we need a place for pedestrians to walk the length of it,” he said. “If there’s room to put a sidewalk in there, and our engineers and the people there that are business owners agree, I think a sidewalk is the easiest, simplest and probably the easiest thing to engineer as well, especially if we’re going to apply for these grant dollars. We need to move forward.”

Public Works Director Andy Smits said a road with a woonerf design would have to be plowed “very strategically.”

“Any deflection or bump in the road is going to leave snow or ice or something blowing compact,” Smits said. “That’s definitely a disadvantage. In the summertime, it would probably be a real nice concept to have.”

Village President Laura Nelson said that section of Riverside Drive wouldn’t be the right location for a road with a woonerf design.

“I love woonerfs when they’re in the right location,” Nelson said. “I just don’t think this is the right location. It’s not wide enough for a woonerf.”

Though she also found the sidewalk design as not being ideal, Nelson said she trusted the business owners to help the village make that section of Riverside Drive “as safe as possible with an eye toward pedestrian safety as well.”

Trustee Steve Andrews said he also favored the sidewalk concept because of possible problems with maintaining a road with the woonerf design.

“I just don’t believe the woonerf design is going to hold up well for us and it’s just going to end up costing us a lot of money down the road,” Andrews said.

Kaker informed the board the sidewalk concept has an estimated cost of close to $600,000 to construct, while the project with a woonerf design could be done for around $900,000 by removing the roundabout/realignment on Velp Avenue.

If the grant is approved, Kaker said up to 90 percent of the project cost could possibly be covered by the MLS program, for which projects of at least $250,000 are eligible.

County M bridge

Given the additional cost of approximately $150,000 would have to be borne by the village to add a multi-use trail on a new bridge for County M over the Suamico River, the board took no action to change the design for when the bridge is scheduled to be replaced in the summer of 2021.

Smits informed the board about Brown County and the DOT currently being in the design phase to replace to the bridge.

He said now would be the time for the village to propose any changes it would want to see with the project, which calls for a single-span bridge with two lanes 12 feet wide and 5-foot shoulders.

Smits said adding a multi-use trail on the new bridge would involve a minimum of a 10-foot wide paved trail with a 2-foot concrete barrier separating the traveled lane and the trail, similar to the bridge on Lineville Road.

“They wouldn’t allow anything less than 10 feet (wide),” he said. “That’s standard on a county trunk system for a multi-use path.”

Kaker said he doesn’t see where the village would have the money to pay for adding the multi-use trail, which wouldn’t be eligible for grant funding.

“It’s really all on us if we want to fund this project, and frankly, I don’t see where you have the money to do it,” he said.

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