In March of this year, The Capital Times reported nearly 200 area residents had expressed opposition to a plan to reconstruct 1.2 miles of Lake Mendota drive over a three year period. The proposal includes repaving the historic parkway, adding gutters and curbs to improve storm water treatments, and adding sidewalks to increase pedestrian safety.
The project came to a head at last night’s Madison Common Council meeting.
For months, some residents have been asking the city to slow their roll on the project. Critics say the project – specifically, a proposal to include sidewalks on the road – would disrupt the history and culture of the neighborhood, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, and result in loss of convenient parking. They are also concerned with environmental impacts of the project – from the loss of dozens of trees to concerns over the project’s impact on water quality. .
Maureen Rickman, resides in the area and is co-leader of the newly minted Friends of Mendota Drive group.
“Water protection must be the city’s priority. Anything less is shortsighted. Water will continue to flow. The city must assure that the water flowing to the lake is clean, that drinking water flowing to our faucets is safe and that the water flowing around our homes doesn’t flood them. Decisions about the water will have consequences for generations to come,” Rickman says.
She adds that sidewalks are not the only alternative to provide pedestrian safety.
“There can be walkways made of permabuilt pavement, they can be connected directly to the road with angled gutters. That protects the water, that provides equitable access to social recreation. It improves visibility of pedestrians, which improves safety,” Rickman says.
Mark Clear, former alder of the district, spoke in support of proceeding with the plan, saying that controversy over repair of the stretch of road is not new:
“I did represent this area of the city on the Common Council from 2007 to 2018, and during that time there were many many conversations about Lake Mendota Drive and they started right when I was sworn in 15 year ago. People often asked me when the pavement would be replaced because it was not in good condition then and it has not gotten better over time. My answer was always the same–that the pavement would be replaced when curb and gutter and sidewalk would be installed to make it a complete street. That was usually the end of the conversation. I did not have the fortitude the Alder Furman has demonstrated to bring this project forward to the city,” Clear says.
In the early hours this morning, the plan was approved on a 12 to 8 vote, after a previous motion to delay the project failed.
The project will be done in phases in 2022, 2023 and 2024.