New Berlin OKs Wilbur temporary closure

Opponents say it will only cause traffic to increase on surrounding neighborhood streets

Oct. 30, 2012

New Berlin - Temporary traffic diverters will be installed on Wilbur Drive in an effort to discourage traffic from using the residential Wilbur as a shortcut to National Avenue.

If the diverters work, a hammerhead type of permanent barricade will be put in for an estimated $89,600, the New Berlin Common Council decided last week.

The theory is that the blockage would divert cut-through traffic north in a circle using Poplar Road, Redwood Drive and then Cottonwood Road to get back onto Wilbur on the other side of the blockage, making motorists drop Wilbur as a shortcut.

The goal is to bring relief from cut-through traffic for Wilbur Drive but maintain access to the City Center of mixed apartments, condos and stores along National Avenue. Residents have complained for 11 years about the safety hazards of the cut-through and City Center-bound traffic as well as the noise associated with it.

While some have opposed the diversion as tending to strangle City Center businesses, resident Terry Piontkowski told the Common Council that very little of the Wilbur Drive traffic goes to the City Center, anyway. Piontkowski said on Oct. 15 he counted 30 cars coming out of Wilbur Drive in just 10 minutes with only one turning into the City Center. All the rest went through, he said. He got similar results on Oct. 18 when he counted 26 cars in 10 minutes and two turned into the City Center.

Traffic won't be reduced

While some applauded the council's decision, others did not, mainly because they didn't buy the theory that the plan would reduce cut-through traffic.

"You're just moving the problem," Amy Spielmann of Cottonwood Road said. Not only that, she predicted that Cottonwood would have even worse traffic than Wilbur because City Center-bound traffic not only from Wilbur but from streets south of there would all be funneled onto Cottonwood as well as Redwood Drive.

She said that more children reside on Redwood and Cottonwood and something would need to be done to ensure their safety.

Similarly, Cliff Pautz of Fieldpoint Drive said traffic goes faster on Redwood than on Wilbur right now, according to traffic counts. He said funneling more traffic onto Redwood would reduce safety even more.

But others doubt there even is a problem on Wilbur. One of them is Alderwoman Deena Liska who said there isn't enough evidence to support closing the road.

She and Alderman Dennis Horbinski cast the only "no" votes to the temporary diversion. Horbinski said he opposed the closure because area residents were not involved in the process as much as he thought they should be.

Voting for closure were Alderwoman Laura Karvala, and aldermen Ron Seidl, Ken Harenda and Dave Ament.

Do what was planned

If the detractors are right and the diverters only succeed in throwing a lot of traffic onto Cottonwood Road and Redwood Drive, some speakers said the city should do what it intended to in the first place, which is close off access to the City Center entirely from Wilbur, the center's only eastern access.

"It's not fair to shove it onto Redwood," Leia Olsen of Wilbur Drive said. If that happens, the city should close Wilbur. It may be an inconvenience to people, but it is a neighborhood where families live, she said.

"There's no lack of access to the City Center," Jon Ellingen of Wilbur Drive said.

Similarly, James Nelson of Wilbur Drive said the inconvenience amounts to 0.2 of a mile to stay on Sunnyslope Road to its intersection with National Avenue giving access to the City Center from there.


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