Sturgeon Bay Paves the Way for New Sidewalks, Bike Lanes

One round of sidewalks will be paved this summer thanks to a Safe Routes to School Grant, and the Sturgeon Bay Common Council voted at its May 1 meeting to apply for another grant to bring more sidewalks and bike paths to the city.

The City’s Community Development Director, Marty Olejniczak, says that while he doesn’t know how competitive the applications will be this year, he expects to receive at least some money from the program.

“It’s hard to say exactly how much money we’ll get,” he says, “but I’d be shocked if we didn’t get anything.”

In 2008, the city applied for $300,000 – the maximum amount allotted for the grant sponsored by the Wisconsin DOT – and received about $200,000. That grant will be used to create sidewalks on Maple Street and Neenah Avenue this summer, as well as purchase and install a new speed board on the city streets.

The Safe Routes to School grants fund projects that promote walking and biking to school through one of five E’s (Engineering, Education, Enforcement, Encouragement, or Evaluation), which is why the common council thought funding this round of roughly $290,000 worth of projects near the high school would be a natural fit.

The city will need to apply for the grant by May 4 in order to be eligible for funding to pave a sidewalk along 15th Avenue from Rhode Island Street to Memorial Drive and one on the south side of Michigan Street from the crosswalk by the school track up to 15th Avenue. In addition to other sidewalks throughout the city, the grant would also be used to purchase another solar powered speed board, which would be placed near the school on Michigan Street.

The council also approved the installation of new bike lanes along Michigan Street. Michigan Street is already designated a bike route under the Sturgeon Bay Bicycle Master Plan, but there are currently no bike lanes on the street.

The approved plan would eliminate parking on the south side of the street and create bike lanes from 1st Avenue to Highway 42/57. In a few narrower areas, bikers and cars would still have to share a lane.

No actual construction will be required to install the lanes, but the existing paint lines in the downtown portion of Michigan Street will need to be ground off in order to accommodate the new, narrower lanes.

The total cost for the bike lanes is estimated to be $11,050. According to Olejniczak, that money will come from the budget the city uses for painting and signage.

About 90 percent of the lanes will be installed this year, with the installation of the section from 1st to 5th Avenue being contingent upon receiving the Safe Routes to School grant. If the grant is not received, that portion of the bike lanes will be completed next year.

Head of Planning, Policy and Legislation at the Wisconsin Bike Federation Kevin Luecke expressed support for the new bike lanes.

“This is an important transportation corridor for the city,” wrote Luecke in a letter to the council, “connecting one of the bridges, downtown, residential areas, a large school, and the planned extension of the Ahnapee State Trail on the east side of the city. It is important to include bicycle lanes in this corridor.”

The Wisconsin Bike Federation is currently working with the county government to create a countywide bicycle and pedestrian plan. Olejniczak says that while it may be too early to tell exactly how the Michigan Street lanes will fit into the emerging county plan, he can’t imagine why they wouldn’t be an important part of whatever the county draws up.

“There’s numerous reasons why it makes sense to put bike lanes in there,” he says. “We’re confident that it’ll be successful, and that it’ll help keep children and bicyclists safe.”