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Council to vote on proposed Hwy 32 re-route
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Downtown Racine

Council to vote on proposed Hwy 32 re-route

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RACINE — After evaluating three options, Public Works Commissioner John Rooney and other city officials want to formally apply to relocate Highway 32 off of Downtown Main Street and onto Marquette Street.

In December, the city contracted with Strand Associates to conduct a preliminary study into three possible reroutes for the highway, either onto Marquette, Lake Avenue or Wisconsin Avenue.

Strand recommended the route that, after the Main Street bridge, would turn onto State Street, go west to Marquette, then south on Marquette to Washington Avenue, where it would continue on its current route on Racine Street. It continues south from there into Kenosha.

Rooney brought the recommendation before the Public Works and Services Committee on Wednesday, which voted that the City Council should grant him permission to submit the application to the state Department of Transportation.

Moving off Main Street

The move is based on recommendations from Toole Design Group, which was hired by the city last year to study and redesign Monument Square, Downtown traffic and parking. The study was partially spurred by feedback from travel adviser Roger Brooks, who visited Racine County in 2017 and stated that Racine was not maximizing Monument Square and Downtown.

Representatives from Toole said the key to improving Downtown is slowing traffic on Main Street. The recommendations include reducing Main Street to a two-lane street, giving more room for pedestrians, cyclists and parking, and changing Wisconsin Avenue and Lake Avenue into two-way streets. They also recommended removing many of the Downtown traffic signals and replacing them with four-way stops.

In his presentation, Rooney said that rerouting the highway off Main Street was the first thing to be done to implement many of the Toole recommendations.

Strand estimated that rerouting the highway onto Wisconsin Avenue would be the most expensive, at $1.6 million to $1.9 million, mostly due to the cost of reconfiguring some of the its intersections for truck traffic, such as where Wisconsin and State Street intersect and part of Wisconsin goes under the State Street bridge to connect with Second Street. The city also would have to purchase some of the former Porter’s of Racine property, which the city feared could interfere with any development prospects for the site.

Aside from the cost, Wisconsin Avenue was ruled out because converting it to a state highway would significantly reduce the number of parking spots Downtown.

Lake Avenue would also require some reconstruction where it intersects with Gaslight Drive and Seventh Street to accommodate trucks, at an estimated cost of $550,000. But the bigger issue was that with the number of developments in the pipeline on Lake Avenue, moving the state highway there would replicate the problems on Main Street.

“We would just move the highway from Main to Lake and then wind up with the same exact problems on Lake Avenue,” said Rooney.

The cost of relocating to Marquette is an estimated range from $25,000 to $450,000, though Rooney said that after a more detailed analysis, he believes it will be on the lower end of that range. Rooney said he believes that any of the geometric issues for truck traffic could be addressed with remarking the pavement — no property purchases and no construction. That also would mean that the project could be completed sooner, which would allow the city to implement other components of the Toole study sooner.

Alderman Henry Perez of the 12th District said he has heard from Downtown merchants that they are “very enthusiastic” about moving the highway.

“They’re thinking that would definitely be an improvement for their business and for slowing down traffic Downtown,” said Perez.

The next City Council meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday. It is to be held virtually and live-streamed for the public on the city’s Facebook page: Facebook.com/CityOfRacineWI/.

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Reporter

Christina Lieffring covers the City of Racine and the City of Burlington and is a not-bad photographer. In her spare time she tries to keep her plants and guinea pigs alive and happy.

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