Committees review downtown Rhinelander street survey
Keeping Brown Street two-way backed by most respondents
BY KEVIN BONESKE
The results are in from an online survey recently conducted to gauge public opinion about roadway traffic and parking in downtown Rhinelander.
At Monday’s city Public Works and Water/Wastewater committee meetings, public works director Tim Kingman reviewed the results, in which more than 700 responded to at least some of the questions,
Kingman noted the survey was conducted to get feedback from the public on things that might be accomplished differently with the downtown Streetscape project when it resumes this spring and wraps up this summer.
“It’s always a good value to see where we’re at and where we want to go,” he said. “It did not assure a change would be made based on that, but it ended up being some good information.”
The survey in particular asked questions about Brown Street, which in the downtown area was laid out as part of the Streetscape project with two-way traffic having diagonal parking on the east side and parallel parking on the west. The questions brought up the possibility of changing both the traffic pattern to one-way and the type of parking along the street downtown.
When asked whether Brown Street should have one-way traffic downtown, 366 (55.5 percent) of the total respondents opposed the change with 293 (44.5 percent) in favor.
“Largely, the decisions made with the Streetscape study are still revered as the right choices,” said Kingman, who noted the results broke down roughly the same regardless of where the respondents live in relation to Rhinelander.
When asked where those filling out the online survey live, 42 (5.9 percent) indicated downtown Rhinelander, 325 (45.3 percent) indicated the city of Rhinelander, 312 (43.5 percent) indicated Oneida County, 25 (3.5 percent) indicated the state of Wisconsin and 13 (1.8 percent) indicated being visitors.
As for diagonal parking, survey respondents favored the current front-in parking being used over back-in parking 589 (89.8 percent) to 67 (10.2 percent). However, Kingman suggested the possibility of looking into having back-in parking by noting it would be safer to have than the front-in parking.
“The trend, nationally, is starting to look at this back-in parking being a value because of the safety,” he said. “There’s inherent value to the sight distances when you’re backing in.”
District 3 council member Sherrie Belliveau, who sits on both committees, voiced her opposition to implementing back-in parking this year. She noted that would go against the majority of survey respondents.
“Maybe a couple of years down the road you could ease it in,” Belliveau said. “But then that just throws it in the face of people that did the survey…”
District 7 council member Steve Sauer, who is on the Public Works Committee, favored keeping the current traffic pattern on Brown Street for the next two years so that people could get used to it and then decide if they would want a change, which would amount to “just changing paint.”
“It’s brand new,” Sauer said. “We haven’t gone through a season with it yet.”
Rhinelander’s Streetscape project began last March and wrapped up for 2016 in November. Numerous street closures occurred downtown last year when work took place separating the combined sanitary and storm water sewers and upgrading both systems along with putting down new pavement. The project also involved increasing the width of sidewalks, installing decorative lighting, planting trees and other beautification projects.
District 5 council member Dawn Rog, who is on the Water/Wastewater Committee, took exception to the survey not taking into consideration non-motorized traffic, such as with bicycles and pedestrians.
“Bicycles cannot travel a downtown street when there’s front-end angle parking,” Rog said. “It’s just too dangerous….
“We are leaving out a whole population in the survey and the fact that we’re just not moving forward with the future that people are choosing – if they live in Rhinelander – they choose not to drive their cars. They choose to walk or they choose to use a different type of transportation.”
Members of both committees didn’t make any formal recommendation as to whether to make any parking or traffic changes along Brown Street, but rather agreed to “approve” the survey results that were presented to them.
Mayor Dick Johns, who was also present for both meetings, pointed out no final decision has been made for the layout along Brown Street.