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Cascade redesign plan takes shape

November 29, 2007

After months of meetings and planning, the plans for the redesign of Cascade Avenue have been narrowed down to one basic design concept.

The design was unveiled at a public meeting held 6:30 p.m. Nov. 26, in the St. Croix Room of the University Center. More than 50 UW-River Falls administrators and students, as well as River Falls community members, came to hear what the Cascade Avenue design technical committee members came up with.

The concept includes two lanes of traffic, one eastbound and one westbound, separated by a median and fence, three roundabouts, no access from certain side streets, including Third Street, the elimination of on-street parking and the addition of a wider bike path and pedestrian walkway.

The committee members stressed that this concept is not finalized, but will be close to what the River Falls community will see when construction is finished in a few years.

“We need to deal with some more detailed questions as we refine this, but the main concept here, we would hope, would not change,” Reid Wronski, River Falls city engineer and committee member, said. “I would anticipate there being roundabouts at three locations. I would anticipate there being one through lane in each direction. I would anticipate no parking from second to sixth. And I would anticipate limited parking from sixth down to the Birchcrest area. From there we get into more details, which will be worked out in preliminary design.”

The Cascade Avenue concept planning technical committee includes Wronski, UWRF Campus Planner Dale Braun, Transportation Planner for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation Jeff Abboud, River Falls Chief of Police Roger Leque, River Falls City Planner Buddy Lucero, UWRF Director of Public Safety Dick Trende and City of River Falls Superintendent of Public Works H.L. “Lanny” Gleason.

Also included are three individuals brought in from Short Elliott Hendrickson Inc. (SEH). Among them are Senior Transportation Engineer Glen Van Wormer, Project Coordinator and Consultant Dave Simons and Urban Designer Veronica Anderson. SEH is “a multi-disciplined, single-source consulting firm of engineers, architects, planners and scientists,” according to their Web site.

The process for coming to this design concept was tedious, Van Wormer said. It began April 30, with a public meeting held so community members could express their concerns and share their hopes of what the redesigned Cascade Avenue will look like.

“I’m hopeful that it’s going to be very, very close, because we’ve put a lot of effort into it and listened a lot,” Van Wormer said. “But, we won’t know until we get all the comment cards back. This evening you didn’t hear anybody saying negative things about it, so it leads me to believe it’s going to be accepted. Maybe some work on the details, but most of it has been positive tonight.”

The comment sheets were available at the public meeting and are also available on the City of River Falls Web site regarding the Cascade Avenue reconstruction.

The changes outlined in the new concept design were done with traffic and pedestrian safety in mind, as well as adding an aesthetic touch.

Narrowed lanes to slow traffic
The driving surface will be narrowed according to the Cascade concept plan, primarily to decrease traffic speed. Turn lanes will also be added along Cascade to make the avenue safer for traffic.

Parking will also be eliminated along Cascade from Second to Sixth Street, but the loss of spaces along Cascade will be replaced by the addition of spaces to the lot east of North Hall and in front of the residence halls near Sixth Street. The spaces by North Hall will be created by closing Third Street from Spring Street to Cascade Avenue, and increasing the size of the parking lot that currently sits adjacent to Third Street.

“That’s been talked about for many years, and this is just kind of bringing it to completion,” Leque said.

There will also be a widened bike path and sidewalk on each side of the redesigned Cascade Avenue.

A median will also be added to Cascade to separate east and west bound lanes of traffic. Within the medians will be fences designed to inhibit pedestrians from crossing the avenue at non-designated locations.

“That’s an issue that needs to be adressed, how to get people from this side of Cascade to the other side,” UWRF Chalmer Davee Library Achivist Alyson Jones said. “I don’t know that sticking a concrete barrier in the middle of the street is the best way to do it.”

Roundabouts
The three roundabouts that have been proposed to be added will be located at Second Street, Sixth Street and Wasson Lane.

These locations were chosen because they seemed like logical points where the landscape changes, Van Wormer said during his presentation at the Nov. 26 meeting.

The roundabouts at Second and Sixth Streets would be considered gateways into the campus community. The roundabout at Second Street would have a UWRF welcoming sign, as well as trees and other vegetation to beatify the center structure. The Sixth Street roundabout will have a globe sculpture as its centerpiece with stone pillars, representing the four UWRF colleges outside of it. The roundabout at Wasson Lane will be decorated with vegetation and stones.

UWRF student Kristen Witte was sceptical about the addition of the roundabouts.

“I don’t think anybody likes roundabouts, personally,” she said. “That’s not typical to this area, I think most people are used to stopping and I think most peopel will still stop wheteher it is there or not.”

According to Abboud, the use of roundabouts must be looked at before other types of intersections can be considered.

“They’re high capacity intersections,” he said. “And the maintenance issues on a roundabout are typically lower than a signalized intersection, so we have to look at a roundabout first, discount it, see if it’s not going to work, before we can look at a signalized intersection.”

Combining aesthetics with functionality
The changes along Cascade will include the addition of multiple trees and decorative structures at the roundabouts. This was done for multiple reasons.

“When you bring vegetation closer to the street it slows traffic down, so it’s both aesthetics and function,” Anderson said.

Anderson was responsible for many of the decorative details.

“What informed a lot of the design truly was taking a walk on campus, and also just within River Falls itself,” she said. “There’s a lot of color and texture and different things that we look at that inform the design.”

Community input still desired
While the plan is nearing its final stages, the committee members would like to hear any comments or concerns from community members, including UWRF students.

For more information, or to fill out a comment sheet on the Cascade Avenue redesign project, you can visit the Cascade Avenue redesign page at the City of River Falls Web site, http://www.rfcity.org/Eng/Projects/Cascade%20Ave/CascadeAve.htm

The earliest the actual reconstruction project will begin is in 2009, Wronski said.

The committee members all seemed very satisfied with all aspects of the design concept.

“I think it’s a good plan that blends good traffic flow with pedestrian safety and maintains the same amount of parking in the general vicinity of the campus,” Braun said. “It really makes a huge aesthetic improvement, and it creates a wonderful front door for the campus.”

Matthew Groschen also contributed to this story.