Road leading into UW-Eau Claire to be redone

Andrew Dowd, The Leader-Telegram, Eau Claire, Wis.
·3 min read

Feb. 23—EAU CLAIRE — A block that leads to the archway into the UW-Eau Claire campus is slated for reconstruction this summer to coincide with repaving a busy parking lot used by university faculty.

Details of the planned roadwork were discussed during a Monday night public hearing on the project before the Eau Claire City Council is slated to vote on the project during its 4 p.m. meeting today.

As currently planned, the 200 block of Garfield Avenue would have on-street parking along its north side, though some people are advocating that be removed so bicycle lanes could be added.

"It's really important to me that Eau Claire become more bike- and pedestrian-friendly," said Kate Wilson, a university employee who often walks or bikes to work from her home in the Putnam Heights neighborhood.

Wilson said Garfield Avenue is very congested now with curbside parking in addition to vehicle traffic. She urged for the creation of bike lanes to make it safer for people who don't drive a car to campus.

Aaron Salmon, chairman of the city's Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, shared similar sentiments noting that some bicyclists now feel unsafe on Garfield Avenue, which leads them to ride on sidewalks. He said this creates safety problems for people walking on the sidewalks to get to and from classes.

Leah Ness, deputy city engineer, said a 7-1 vote of the Third Ward Neighborhood Association backed the proposal for on-street parking, not bike lanes.

Councilman Jeremy Gragert said he'd spoken with residents of the block and found that their opinions were not as clearly divided as the association board's vote.

"There's definitely a bit more nuance in people's opinions on the bike lane versus having parking on the north side," Gragert said.

On-street parking provides about 17 stalls for people along that block of Garfield Avenue, which Salmon noted fills up early in the morning from motorists driving to campus.

The block is next to a large university-owned faculty parking lot, which is scheduled for repaving this summer.

Another road project discussed Monday night and set for a vote today would result in bike lanes connecting two Eau Claire attractions.

Lake Street, between West Grand and Fifth avenues, is set for repaving this summer. This stretch of road leads into Carson Park and runs alongside Lakeshore Elementary School.

Plans for the roadwork include eliminating parking along one side of the street to create enough space for bike lanes going in both directions. Those bike lanes would connect to others that were added to other sections of Lake Street when they were under construction in recent years.

"Lake Street would have bike lanes then from Carson Park to downtown Eau Claire at Farwell Street," Ness noted.

During this afternoon's meeting, the council will vote on six road construction projects in addition to some alleyway work that was discussed at prior meetings.

Changes proposed to Eau Claire's backyard chickenkeeping licensing process also were subject to a public hearing on Monday night, but no one who attended that meeting spoke to the issue. Those ordinance changes are scheduled for a vote today.