The city of Madison is looking to alter what’s in about 110 medians around the city, striking planting beds and bushes in those medians and turning most to concrete or turf grass.
Under the proposal, approximately 110 of the city’s 650 total planted medians would be affected. 62 planting beds would be turned to turf, 27 planting beds would be turned to concrete, and roughly twenty would have some turf intermixed with planting beds.
It’s a change, the city says, that is prompted by financial squeeze. Currently, about a third of the city’s planted medians are maintained by private contractors. Under the city’s current budget, funding to maintain these medians was slashed by almost half – from $165,000 a year to about $86,000.
Greg Fries is the Assistant City Engineer. He says it’s been harder and harder to get adequate contractors for the job.
Fries tells WORT that in the past five years, it’s been difficult to find more than three contractors to bid on the jobs, which drives up the price. Additionally, for the past three years, at least one contract had to be terminated due to the contractors doing a poor job. All the medians being replaced are ones previously maintained by contractors.
And Fries says it’s not feasible for the city engineering department to take on that contracting work, either.
“We do not have the staff in house to pick up the slack, and do the work that a contractor has been doing for us. So reducing the operating budget forces a change to how these medians are managed,” Fries says.
Still, under the proposal, about 100 of the medians would remain under private contract.
Many of the impacted medians are in high traffic areas, such as on Packers Avenue and East Washington Avenue. Those are especially tricky to maintain, Fries says, because the e city usually will have to close lanes around the median in order for them to do their work. It’s also why the city won’t allow these medians to be used in the Adopt-a-Median program. They say it is just too dangerous to have volunteers working in these medians.
Not everyone is on board with the proposal, though. Alder Brian Bedford represents portions of East Washington, where some of the medians would be converted. He says that, while he recognized East Washington is dangerous, he thinks the dangers associated with the medians are overblown.
“I always appreciate a nod for safety, but let’s be honest, people cross our streets and crosswalks. Adults who are taking on the volunteering can manage the safety issues,” Bedford says.
Bedford adds that trees and plant life in the medians could help slow traffic.
Keith Furman is Common Council President, and the sole sponsor on the amendment. He says that the rollout of information about the plan was the biggest issue.
“Communication is a big issue. I don’t think that, when it was released, there was the explanation of why and where this was going to take place. I think initial reports made it seem like it was going to be much larger than it actually is,” Furman says.
The amendment was introduced by the city Engineering Division last month, and the city finance committee has already passed a motion to recommend the amendment to the full council. The amendment will go before the Common Council at their meeting next Tuesday.
Photo courtesy: The City of Madison