Calls for Traffic Calming on Howell Avenue to Protect Pedestrians

January 7, 2017

By Katherine Keller

A meeting addressing pedestrian safety concerns on South Howell Avenue was held December 1 at Milwaukee Parkside School for the Arts.

Sponsored by the Howell Avenue Safety Committee, presenters included Jake Newborn of the Wisconsin Bike Fed, Joseph Blakeman of Milwaukee’s Department of Public Works, and Dist. 14 Ald. Tony Zielinski. Milwaukee Police Department Sergeant Eileen Donovan-Agnew and Community Liaison Officers Carlos Felix and Joshua Dummann also attended.

Newborn said that Bike Fed has been working with Parkside for three years, educating students and their families about bike and pedestrian safety. Parkside is located on Howell Avenue, a block north of Oklahoma Avenue. He noted that a group of residents, business owners, parents, and representatives of Parkside, Downtown Montessori Academy, and Saint Lucas Lutheran School formed the Howell Avenue Safety Committee to advocate for traffic calming measures on Howell Avenue between Oklahoma and Lincoln avenues.

Newborn pointed out that there are no traffic controls on Howell between Oklahoma and Lincoln, which he asserted contributes to the careless driving and speeding that make Howell Avenue hazardous to pedestrians. The stretch of Howell serves students who attend Parkside, 2969 S. Howell Ave.; Saint Lucas, 648 E. Dover St.; and Downtown Montessori, 2507 S. Graham St., and includes a crossing for the Oak Leaf Trail. A section of it borders Humboldt Park. During the summer the popular Chill on the Hill concerts series in the band shell generates high traffic volume and is hazardous to pedestrians. Many attendees walk to the concert with their children.

In the past year, safety committee members posted signs along Howell Avenue that admonished drivers to slow down for students and other pedestrians.

Newborn and others at the meeting asked for stop signs or traffic lights, pointing out that the curve on Howell between Dover Street and Russell Avenue posed sightline hazards, putting pedestrians at risk. Ald. Zielinski said that DPW wouldn’t put stop signs or traffic lights on Howell between Oklahoma and Lincoln because the street is a major arterial.

DPW traffic engineer Joe Blakeman said that he had no record of pedestrians being hit in front of Parkside and that parents and kids generally are doing a good job interacting with Howell traffic. Some of the problems with speeding and careless or reckless driving are attributable to the lack of driver education classes in the Milwaukee Public School curriculum, he added.

Several audience members asked for curb extensions in lieu of stop signs or traffic lights. Curb extensions make a section of a street narrower and motivate drivers to reduce their speed. There is a pair of curb extensions on Potter Avenue behind Dover Street School.

Blakeman said that installation of a pair of extensions ranges from $40,000 to $100,000 and DPW’s preference is to put them in place when a street is being repaved.

Another suggestion was made for flashing beacons but it was ruled out by Blakeman who said they cause rear-end collisions. The in-road pentagonal signs, that remind drivers that state law requires they must slow down or stop for pedestrians, were deemed ineffective by Newborn and audience members.

In response to calls for more policing and citations, MPD District 6 Sgt. Eileen Donovan-Agnew said, “We do what we can. We’re focusing on reckless driving.” There are three to four officers charged with traffic duty during the day shift she said. She advised those who know of areas or streets where there is a pedestrian safety issue to call and inform her (414-935-7192) or to contact Community Liaison Officers Joshua Dummann (414-935-7198) or Carlos Felix (414-935-7198).

After considering remarks made by presenters and audience members, Zielinski said he would “try to find funding” for curb extensions for the intersection of Howell Avenue and Montana Street and for another pair near Downtown Montessori.

After the meeting Zielinski told the Compass he’d like to see the Howell Avenue curb extensions installed in 2018, and in 2019 another set on Homer to stem traffic that backs up at Downtown Montessori when parents pick-up and drop-off children.

Blakeman advised those with traffic concerns to contact DPW’s traffic personnel by writing to trafficcalming@
milwaukee.gov.

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