By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
Reckless driving is one of Milwaukee’s most prevalent issues. Mayor Tom Barrett is hoping that investments in various initiatives will curb the issue.
Barrett announced his intention to invest more than $6 million of Milwaukee’s American Rescue Plan Act funding toward reckless driving preventive measures. The proposal is a part of his Milwaukee Recovery and Resilience Plan.
The City of Milwaukee has received the first half of its $394 million in ARPA funding. It has approximately four years to spend the funds.
Barrett and Commissioner Jeff Polenske, Department of Public Works, discussed what those investments would look like during a press conference on the corner of West North Avenue and North 24th Street on Tuesday, July 13.
Many residents have asked the city to take a stance against reckless driving.
“This is probably the issue I hear most when I’m talking to residents on things they don’t like about the city,” Barrett said. “You see it throughout the city and we take this very seriously.”
North Avenue is an epicenter for reckless driving. Parts of the street are one lane but between 24th and 30th street, the avenue widens to two lanes. According to Barrett, community leaders have expressed their concern over this area. The city engineer is looking at temporary solutions and permanent ones that will address the issue.
“This is exactly the type of funding that we could use the American Rescue Plan Act funding for,” Barrett said. “With investments of more than $6 million of American Rescue Plan Act funding, we will make physical improvements to discourage reckless driving. That includes curb extensions, pedestrian refuge islands, raised crossed walks, pedestrian signals, pavement markings, street trees and green infrastructure along some 25 miles of Milwaukee streets.”
Engineering is only a part of it, Barrett said. He explained that part of the investment will go toward the Milwaukee Police Department to help it purchase new motorcycles, mobile computers and overtime dollars. The department will receive just over a million dollars.
Polenske explained that the Department of Public Works’ 2021 budget had identified areas as segments of roadway that could undergo changes to improve the city’s safety. The department is looking at areas that have high cases of pedestrian injury as well as around schools.
“The focus is to prioritize treatments that will help reduce traffic speeds and to help reduce passing on the right,” Polenske said.
Most of the areas need spot improvements, he said, so the changes should happen relatively quick. The rapid improvement projects are quick to design and quick to be implemented, he said, referring to North 27th Street.
Polenske said the department is looking at using Jersey barriers, delineators, water filter barriers and more.
Other investments in Barrett’s Recovery and Resilience Plan include $3 million to expand 414LIFE, $1.5 million for Early Childhood Initiatives, $7.5 million for local business assistance and $10 million for street lighting concerns.
Barrett noted that every investment in his proposal has been viewed through a racial equity lens.
“As we curb reckless driving, we are improving safety, increasing neighborhood quality of life and restoring a sense of civility on our roadways,” Barrett said.