Madison Common Council approved a revised plan for Capitol Square Tuesday night after state officials denied a provision in January that would have built a bike lane on East Mifflin Street.
The plan focused on general maintenance of the Capitol Square. The north side of the square will be developed first, with construction set to start March 28 and scheduled to finish by September for Taste of Madison. The south side of the square will be developed next year.
Ald. Zach Wood, District 8, said the construction may affect walking on the square and bus traffic.
“It’s not going to impact farmers market at all because we are not doing work on Saturdays and it’s not at all going to impact the Art Fair,” Wood said. “That said, the total impact on students shouldn’t be too major, especially those who don’t regularly spend time on the Capitol Square.”
The State Capitol and Executive Residence Board rejected Jan. 11 the part of the plan that would have created the bike lane, after city officials worked with the state Department of Administration to draft the project.
Specifically, the board disagreed with the contraflow bike lane running against traffic on the south side of Mifflin Street. The board voted unanimously against the lane because of safety threats it posed running against traffic and parking lanes, according to a Capital Times article.
Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, said he hoped the contraflow bike lane would be passed. He said he receives calls from pedestrian constituents whom are nearly hit walking on Mifflin Street.
“I have long hoped that it would greatly reduce the amount of existing illegal bike riding on the sidewalk,” Verveer said. “We have a very acute problem currently with people riding bicycles on the sidewalks around the Capitol Square, which is completely illegal.”
The Pedestrian Bicycle Motor Vehicle Commission requested city staff to explore the feasibility of moving the contraflow lane from the south side of Mifflin Street, which would run between the traffic and parking lanes, to the north side, which would sit between the sidewalk and traffic lane.
In a March 2 response letter, City Engineer Robert Phillips and City Traffic Engineer David Dryer said a north-side contraflow lane is not feasible. If the city put the lane on the north side, three traffic signals would be altered, two sidewalk cafes could be lost and 13 trees would need to be removed.
Despite the state rejection of the bike lane, the revised plan still allows for the city to add two feet to the street, making the East Mifflin Street part of the square 42.5 feet wide. If the state were to approve a contraflow bike lane in the future, the street could be reconfigured to add the lane.
The city has used contraflow bike lanes on multiple Madison streets, including one that runs through the UW-Madison campus on University Avenue. In a 2012 report, the lane was estimated to serve, on average, 2,800 bicyclists per weekday.
However, Verveer said a future contraflow bike lane is unlikely because it will only happen if the state changes its mind or Madison Metro buses are rerouted to the outer Capitol Square to allow for a north-side lane.
Common Council also approved awarding S & L Underground and Trucking, Inc. the $2.1 million contract for the construction project.