City will transform South Second Street

The City of Milwaukee will rebuild South Second Street, between St. Paul Avenue and National Avenue in Walker’s Point, this year.

Construction on the half-mile, $4.1 million project will begin after Summerfest and is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

The reconstruction of South Second Street is necessary because it is in bad condition and has several potholes.
However, the project will provide more than a smooth driving surface for motorists. It will dramatically transform the look and feel of the street. Property and business owners hope the changes will help attract more customers to the street.
“This is a significant improvement to the whole neighborhood with a better feel,” said Tim Benkowski, president of Timothy J. Kitchen and Bath Inc., 225 S. Second St. “From our customer perspective to come to a clean street and to have more feel of bike lanes, etc. it will make the area more user friendly.”
“This will be a profound neighborhood transformation,” said Juli Kaufmann, the owner of Pragmatic Development and a neighborhood organizer who rallied support for a comprehensive overhaul of the street.
The street will be narrowed from 58 feet wide to 50 feet wide and reduced from two lanes of traffic in each direction to one lane of traffic and a bike lane in each direction. The street will still have room for parking on each side.
Eliminating a lane of traffic in each direction is part of an effort to make the street more of a pedestrian-oriented business street similar to Brady Street and Kinnickinnic Avenue. Second Street is lined with several historic buildings that could fit into a pedestrian-oriented business street.
“(The project) will take a thoroughfare currently used primarily as a means to move motor vehicles and turn it into a complete street,” Kaufmann said. “(The project will) really enhance pedestrian activity and bike activity. At that scale, the street really comes alive in a different way.”
Second Street has low traffic volumes and does not need more than one lane of traffic in each direction, said Clark Wantoch, transportation design manager for infrastructure services in the City Department of Public Works.
According to the DPW, about 8,150 vehicles drive on South Second Street at Pittsburgh Avenue each day. By comparison, about 19,500 vehicles drive on South First Street at Pittsburgh Avenue each day.
“The (low) traffic volumes (on Second Street) allow us to do what we are proposing,” Wantoch said.
South First Street and South Sixth Street are major arterial streets for the area, so South Second Street does not need to support a large amount of traffic, Wantoch said.
Eighty percent of the South Second Street project will be paid for with state and federal funds, which is another reason for eliminating a traffic lane on the street, because federal funds require accommodation to be made for bicycle traffic, said DPW project engineer Chad Chrisbaum.
A narrower street also lowers plowing and street sweeping costs for the city, Wantoch said.
Several other changes will be made to South Second Street as part of the reconstruction project.
Extensive landscaping will be added. The current 8-foot-wide sidewalk will be reduced to 5 feet wide, and a 6.5-foot wide landscaping strip will be added. As part of the landscaping, 32 trees will be planted along the street.
Some property owners have opted to pay for more sidewalk pavement instead of landscaping so they can have sidewalk cafes.
Lighting on South Second Street will be improved as part of the project. The current street lights will be replaced by decorative street lights, and decorative sidewalk lights will be added. Currently the street does not have sidewalk lights, so lighting will be improved for pedestrians and will be about the same for motorists, Wantoch said.
The project also includes the creation of a quiet zone for the railroad tracks that cross South Second Street near St. Paul Avenue. To create a quiet zone railroad crossing gates will be added to both sides of the street on both sides of the tracks so vehicles can not drive around the gates. Trains do not sound their horns in a quiet zone. Quiet zones are created in an attempt to reduce disturbances to nearby residents and make the area a more appealing place to live.
The enhancements to Second Street will help change people’s perceptions about Walker’s Point and will create a Main Street for the neighborhood, Kaufmann said.
“This is really a defining street for Walker’s Point,” she said.

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Andrew is the editor of BizTimes Milwaukee. He joined BizTimes in 2003, serving as managing editor and real estate reporter for 11 years. A University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate, he is a lifelong resident of the state. He lives in Muskego with his wife, Seng, their son, Zach, and their dog, Hokey. He is an avid sports fan and is a member of the Muskego Athletic Association board of directors.

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