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From two or four lanes to three?
Platteville considering center turn lane on Business 151
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The City of Platteville is considering reconfiguring Business 151 to place a center turn lane from Chestnut Street eastward.

The Common Council tabled the plan July 12 on a motion from at-large Ald. Tom Nall to get “a little more community input” on the proposal.

The proposal, made by Director of Public Works Howard Crofoot at a work session before the regular council meeting as an “opportunity to improve vehicular safety on Business 151,” would not add any pavement. The proposal instead would place the third lane on the two-lane portion of Business 151 between South Chestnut Street and the Mineral Street/East Side Drive intersection by eliminating the striped shoulders and moving the traffic lanes outward.

East of the Mineral Street intersection, the proposal would convert the inside lanes of the four-lane Business 151 into one traffic lane in each direction and the center turn lane to Millennium Drive, where the eastbound and westbound lanes are divided. That would allow the shoulders to be widened in that area.

The proposal is coming up now because the city plans to reapply lane markings on Business 151 sometime between August and mid-October. Century Fence of Pewaukee was the low bidder on the project to repaint the current stripes.

“My hope is if we put in the center turn lane, the left turns are a lot safer for those people getting ready to make left turns,” said Crofoot.

None of the two-lane stretches of East Business 151 have enough traffic to justify adding two lanes, according to state traffic count guidelines. Crofoot said daily traffic counts on Business 151 are 7,200 west of Water Street, 8,300 near Pioneer Lanes, and 8,400 near Benvenuto’s, all short of the 15,000-per-day level. The Business 151/Water Street intersection has 13,300 vehicles per day, Crofoot said.

The proposal would cost almost $14,200 more than replacing the current striping. Two other alternates on the project would restripe Broadway from East Main Street to Stevens Street, and restripe South Water Street between East Pine Street and Business 151, including South Water’s existing center turn lane.

There have been two fatal crashes on the two-lane portion of East Business 151 in the past year. James Spencer Thomas, 22, Platteville, died when his bicycle was hit by a pickup truck at East Business 151 and Phillips Road Sept. 13. Alan R. VanNatta, 48, Benton, died when his car was rear-ended on East Business 151 in front of Runde Auto Sales and was pushed into a pickup truck going the opposite way, resulting in a head-on crash, Dec. 23.

Police Chief Doug McKinley said crashes on Business 151 most commonly are the result of “probably inattention, following too closely, not leading to a vehicle that is slowing to make a turn.”

The proposal would trade the shoulders of East Business 151, now the only places for pedestrians, for the center turn lane.

“I think we need to protect the pedestrian and bicycle rider more than the driver,” said District 4 Ald. Ken Kilian. “The driver has more protection.”

“The road is not built for pedestrians and bicyclists right now,” said at-large Ald. Don Francis. “It’s already dangerous for pedestrians and bicyclists.”

A study last year estimated that installing sidewalks on one side of almost three miles on Business 151 from Staley Avenue to the Commercial Drive/Progressive Parkway area would cost $2.75 million. The largest part of that, about $1.55 million, would cover the two-lane part of East Business 151 from South Water Street to East Mineral Street.

District 3 Ald. Barb Daus supported tabling the proposal because it’s “a big change. Before big changes like this are made, it’s incumbent on us to share with people that those changes are forthcoming. I don’t think it’s been done in this case.”