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Franklin approves South North Cape reconstruction

Many homes on South North Cape Road are surrounded by trees. Plans to reconstruct the road threaten some of those trees.

Many homes on South North Cape Road are surrounded by trees. Plans to reconstruct the road threaten some of those trees.

March 21, 2014

Franklin — South North Cape Road may finally see construction after the Common Council on Tuesday agreed to move forward with the project.

South North Cape Road, owned by Milwaukee County, has been in desperate need of repair for more than a decade, Franklin Mayor Tom Taylor has said repeatedly.

"We've been after the reconstruction of that road ... to fix it up before someone got killed," he said during a meeting in January. "That was the prime reason for advocating that the road be fixed."

Originally, the county proposed two designs for the two-mile road if it was to be repaired: a rural road with no sidewalks and an urban road with sidewalks.

Finding an alternative

Residents who attended related Common Council meetings strongly opposed the urban design, which would include extensive tree removal. Many residents argued sidewalks were unnecessary for that area of Franklin.

During a Common Council meeting in early February, the council announced that the rural design was feasible after discussing financing with the county. The county agreed to pay between $1.25 million and $1.5 million for the reconstruction project and would forgo financial assistance from the state, which would have placed undesirable limitations on the road. In turn, the city agreed to commit $1 million to the project and cover the cost of maintaining the county road once reconstruction was complete.

At the time, South North Cape residents were pleased; but new concerns arose at the March 18 Common Council meeting.

"The present condition of North Cape is very dangerous, but it appears families have been walking along that road to the point where (vehicles) have had to avoid them and actually move into the other lane of traffic," Tom Taylor said. "This road needs to get fixed as quickly as possible."

Rather than installing sidewalks, the county proposed building the rural road with 3-foot-wide paved and 1-foot-wide gravel shoulders on each side of the road. However, those shoulders might not be large enough to accommodate pedestrians, aldermen discussed.

But with a looming deadline, the council had to push forward in order for work to begin this year.

"We're on a time crunch," Common Council President and Milwaukee County Supervisor Steve Taylor emphasized. "(The issue) can't come back to us (again). The county has pretty much said that if we don't make a decision now, nothing gets done in 2014, and that's not at all what the residents want."

The council unanimously voted to direct staff to work with the county to get the reconstruction started as presented and advised City Engineer Jack Bennett to see if the road's shoulder-widths could be adjusted without widening the road.

Because the county did not mow the road's ditches — which prevents seedlings from growing into trees that may disrupt future road development — "we're still not sure how many trees we're going to be able to save," Bennett said.

In lieu of sidewalks on North Cape Road, the council hopes to pave the nearby St. Martin's bike trail into a safe walkway for pedestrians. It would branch off onto the Country Dale Elementary School property. The council agreed to send a letter to the Franklin School Board asking for approval.

The Common Council may not get that approval.

District wary

Aware the council was considering developing the bike trail, the School Board pre-emptively discussed the issue March 12.

No one on the board expressed support for the trail proposal.

"I don't think it serves the school district at all from the standpoint of saying it's a valuable asset to have that pathway go through (the school)," Franklin Superintendent Steve Patz said. "(The administration) is not in favor of it ... for a few reasons."

First and foremost, he said, it could create a breach in school security, he said. The proposed bike path would branch off onto school property, where there is currently a fenced area.

"I think the path opens up our property to anyone," Patz said. "They would have easy access to the property from the road, and we would have to have a custodian open and close the gate (throughout the day)."

Patz also argued the trail would not be used frequently enough to justify its development.

"I don't think we have a great many students that come back and forth to school (on the bike path)," he said. "Realistically, people would use that bike path maybe three months out of the school year."

Board members discussed other concerns, such as who would have to pay for the trail's development.

School Board President Janet Evans said the bike trail is not a safe alternative to sidewalk.

"The school district is not in the road-building business," Patz said, "but, certainly, we would offer opinions on whether this could benefit us (somehow)."

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