Who knows when the discussions actually started to begin, but the topic of 51st Street being widened to four lanes throughout Franklin has been an active one since I started blogging back in 2007. Naturally, the thought of the street being widened has drawn much opposition from residents who live along the street or have their backyards facing the street. Due to this, I have seen city officials go back-and-forth on the proposed road project up until a few months ago.
Mayor Tom Taylor decided that the widening and reconstruction project was worthy enough to be submitted for federal stimulus dollars. The Mayor's office broke the project down into three parts; one from Drexel to Puetz, one from Rawson to Drexel, and one from College to Rawson. Combining those three projects together, the 51st Street project is the biggest road project in the city's stimulus submittal, which had no consultation from the Common Council prior to it going to the Governor's office.
Thanks to the Mayor shining his brights on the street, the project suddenly seems to be moving ahead a lot faster. St. Paul's Lutheran Church as notified that the widening would result in their historic church to be demolished. The Board of Public Works tomorrow will be discussing a joint letter to the Village of Greendale regarding a joint application for the project (51st Street north of Berkshire is within Greendale limits). (H/T: Bullseye)
What irks me about the 51st Street issue is several items.
- Does the traffic counts on the street call for its widening, or are Franklin officials simply attempting to create a busy, 4-lane arterial road just for the heck of it?
- St. Paul's Lutheran most likely needs to be eliminated because from what we all currently see in the current widened area between Sendik's & Andy's, the road has a boulevard down the middle of it. Once again folks, this boulevard is nothing but green grass that will probably have a boatload of dandelions on it come May. So we need to tear down a historical feature of our city because we need the extra room for a grassy boulevard?
- While I recognize that 51st Street is pretty cruddy for driving on several patches of the street, how many other local roads in Franklin are in that shape if not worse? I can easily point all of Franklin's portion of College Avenue, St. Martins Road, and even Rawson Avenue from just west of Loomis to Forest Home Avenue. Therefore, wouldn't a simple reconstruction of 51st Street be more sound with regards to spending instead of aiming at additional dollars to add another 2 lanes and possible boulevard down the middle of it?
- The politics of this really does stink. You have dozens of residents that live along 51st Street and probably didn't have a clue as to what was going on as of recent. To top it off, neither did their aldermanic representatives until after the widening proposal was submitted. The Mayor is no dummy; as the process for the widening truly begins, those residents will aim volleys of negative attitude towards their aldermen...even though it was the Mayor who kicked things into gear!
Kudos should go to Alderwoman Kristen Wilhelm, who apparently has notified her constituents in the 3rd District of the upcoming discussions. Residents along the eastern side of 51st from Berkshire to Drexel are in her district. Hopefully Alderman Lyle Sohns, who represents the rest of the residents on 51st all the way down to Puetz, will do the same.