West Allis - More than 50 people visited an Oct. 19 informational meeting on a Highway 100 overpass that will be part of the Crosstown Connection Bicycle Path, and reaction seemed generally favorable.
Two design alternatives were shown, but either would cost about $1.2 million.
Ald. Kevin Haass, whose district includes the site of the overpass alongside a Union Pacific Railroad bridge, said he was a cyclist himself and could see himself using the overpass.
"The feedback I've gotten is positive," Haass said. "People see this as the kind of amenity the city should have. It's going to (be) safer for bikes, and that's a good thing."
Peter Daniels, the city's principal engineer, said he first met with Union Pacific and the state Office of the Commissioner of Railroads regarding bicycle paths in the vicinity in 2005. A path west from the overpass site was paved in 2013, and plans also call for extending a path east about a half-mile under the Zoo Freeway from the overpass to the intersection of 99th and Burnham streets, where it would connect to bicycle lanes.
Get it done
"Let's get this done and get it behind us," said Ald. Dan Roadt. "People are into biking now."
Among the visitors was Dave Cieslewicz, executive director of the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin.
"We think it's a great project," Cieslewicz said. "You need something like this to cross Highway 100. It gives people more options."
Cieslewicz, who grew up in West Allis, is a former mayor of Madison, which has a national reputation for being bicycle-friendly. He noted that there are already more than 350 miles of bicycle paths in the seven counties of southeastern Wisconsin, and bicycle advocates are pushing for 150 more.
"We could have a complete network, so you could go places without having to go on streets," he said, adding that the overpass "will make a really powerful system that a lot more people will use."
Daniels said businesses adjacent to the overpass site have generally been supportive, but has said working with Union Pacific has been difficult.
Cieslewicz voiced optimism on the future of the project.
"It's not unusual to find railroads hard to work with," Cieslewicz said. But, he added, "as long as you have patience. you can usually find a way to work with them."
On top of the expected $1.2 million for the overpass, the new section of trail would cost another $600,000. Both projects will receive 80 percent federal funding, with the city paying the rest. The city hopes to build the overpass in 2018, while the path can't be paved until 2019 due to ongoing freeway reconstruction.