A Potential Stimulus Horror Story from Franklin, Wisconsin

Some disturbing news about stimulus spending on roads comes to us from Streetsblog Network member blog Sprawled Out, which covers the city of Franklin, WI. In that Milwaukee suburb, according to Sprawled Out’s John Michlig, local bureaucrats are potentially on track to use stimulus funds to widen a local street in a particularly destructive way:

20090310_d73ba2i6br9kf9mn16pjgcjj8k.preview.jpgThe plan: Use stimulus dollars to make this road wider, faster, bigger. Photo from Sprawled Out.

Once again, the "answer" for a poorly street-planned community is to take another of the plat-level streets to gargantuan, pedestrian-killing width; a residential area roadway designed to freeway standards. Another place-killing notch in the Franklin landscape that will make this community that much more vehicle-centric — a drive-thru non-place with no appeal.

But. gosh, you can sure whiz right through.

Just what local business needs, huh? Cars WHIZZING by rather than a walkable environment that encourages lingering — and spending, and returning.

51st street badly needs shoulders and a walking/bike lane — that will require widening as well, but nothing so extreme as the four-lane variety and a much better, forward-looking use for stimulus funds. 51st does not need more vehicle lanes, and it does not need a faster speed limit.

But here’s what’s so incredibly heartening about the members of our network, now nearly 250 strong: Michlig is going to do everything within his power as a citizen and as a blogger to prevent this plan from simply sliding into place. In an update to his original post on the widening, Michlig wrote about a meeting he had with Franklin’s mayor…

A bit of good news, perhaps: A conversation with Franklin’s Mayor Thomas Taylor reveals that he personally in not in favor of a four-lane widening.…Do I believe the 4-lane option would/will be the only plan forwarded if not for some timely intercession? ABSOLUTELY.…

So now the challenge is clear: In order to pursue the forward-thinking and economically-rewarding plan of utilizing stimulus funds for creating pedestrian and bike utility and safety rather than "business as usual" rote street-widening, it’s vital to get involved in the process early, as I plan to do.

We’ll keep you posted on developments. And if you’re in or near Franklin, head over to Michlig’s blog and connect with him there to help stop this default plan before it becomes reality. You can also find him on Twitter as @SprawledOut.

Elsewhere around the network: Bike Portland covers Rep. Earl Blumenauer’s call for a strengthening of the bike commuter tax benefit; Bike Denver looks at "Share the Road" campaigns and what they mean for bike-car relations; and Mobilizing the Region reports on the call for congestion pricing in Connecticut.

  • Rhywun

    A quick look at Google Maps reveals that almost none of the housing pods in that town have sidewalks either. Which further proves my suspicion that when parents claim “suburbs are a great place to raise children” they’re either lying or delusional. Who would raise their kids in such a place? Where it is not even safe to walk to your neighbor’s house??

  • They are delusional. At least it lets them keep their children isolated from the dangers of _meeting other people_.

  • pico

    Streetsbog is so clueless.

  • “[W]hen parents claim “suburbs are a great place to raise children” they’re either lying or delusional.”

    Or perhaps they genuinely don’t believe living in a walkable community is all that important. We’re not doing ourselves any favors if we label people rather than recognizing that maybe they don’t share our opinions.

  • Rhywun

    Or perhaps they genuinely don’t believe living in a walkable community is all that important.

    And I am here to tell them they are wrong. If they’re going to cite “safety” as a major reason to live in a place like that, they should provide sidewalks for kids to move around on.

  • I grew up in a walkable New Jersey suburb and consider myself lucky. It was basically a pre-WWII village with a little postwar suburban flab around the edges. You could walk along the main street of town to the adjacent towns within 45 minutes in one direction and 60 minutes in the other. Within a 10-minute walk of my parents’ house, there was an A&P, pharmacy, hardware store, liquor store, dry cleaner, diner, etc. I walked to all my schools, travel time ranging from 5 to 45 minutes, from kindergarten to high school. So there are good suburbs and bad ones. The good ones tend to be the older ones. I’m grateful to have had the chance to grow up walking, biking (yes, I did that when I had a safe environment to do it in), and for a little while, driving. I have arrived at my current preferences — city living, walking, and transit — with full knowledge of the alternatives.

  • Michlig does a great job talking about urban principals in a suburban setting. On top of that he’s writing from Franklin, WI which Kunstler used as the example of suburbia in his book Geography of Nowhere.

  • Mike Buelow

    It is sad that the Common Council of the City of Franklin (with the exception of Alderwomen Kristin Wilhelm)and our Mayor are pushing so hard to have a four lane highway right down 51st street in a residential neighborhood. Does any one actually believe the Mayor when he says he is against expanding 51st street into a 4 lane highway? As Mayor, you can’t be against something and then continue to push so hard to have a four lane highway. Your either for something Mr. Mayor or your against something? Which is it?

    Our Mayor was the one who submitted a request for 1.3 million stimulus dollars to be used for expanding 51st street. Once again, if he was truly against expanding 51st street, he would not be requesting money from the FEDS to go ahead with widening 51st street. Can anyone believe this guy? I certainly don’t!

  • Kristen Wilhelm


    Not a 4 lane highway more like a 4 lane freeway. Mayor Taylor was proposing a 65MPH street from what I heard as Alderwoman.



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