West Allis - A mile-long stretch of West Kinnickinnic River Parkway in West Allis and southwest Milwaukee is scheduled for reconstruction next year. Whether the entire stretch will remain open to automobile traffic remains to be determined.

Some of the existing roadway may be converted to a bicycle path, which drew the ire of some residents.

About 100 people, including several elected officials, attended a public information meeting on the project Oct. 27 at McCarty Park pavilion here.

The parkway will be rebuilt between West Cleveland Avenue and South 76th Street. At issue is the section west of South 68th Street, which could be narrowed from 36 feet across to 10. Auto traffic would be banned on the narrower path.

"The frontage road would still function, but it would not be a shortcut," said Kevin Haley, a landscape architect for Milwaukee County Parks. "It would be mainly for residents and their guests."

More dandelions

Converting the western half of the road to a bike path would be cheaper. Cost of the project is estimated at just over $2 million if the entire stretch remains wider and open to cars. If the western section becomes a bike path, the cost of the project is $1,74 million. Either option includes sewer reconstruction and improved lighting.

Haley said the bicycle bath option would "bring the grass out to meet it. The amount of green space significantly increases."

That point didn't impress West Allis resident John Arena.

"You can't maintain the green space we have now," Arena complained. "Why add more? People who live there don't want to see more dandelions."

But the most common objection to the bicycle path came from residents who said they use the parkway to start trips to allow easier access to West Oklahoma Avenue.

Jill Organ, chief of planning for the park system, said daily traffic along the parkway is estimated at just under 600 cars, compared to 5,000 to 10,000 cars daily along Oklahoma.

"Oklahoma Avenue is a major arterial," Organ said. "Even if you took all the traffic off the parkway and put it there, it wouldn't be noticed."

Small savings

But Milwaukee resident Kristie Dilkey said use of the parkway is "what people like who live in the area." Although the bicycle path conversion would be less expensive, "it's not like you're saving $1 million."

Another Milwaukee resident, Keith Kischefski, warned a bicycle path conversion might mean more traffic on West Cleveland Avenue.

"We've got too much traffic on Cleveland now," he said, with potential problems at the intersection of Cleveland and South 76th Street.

West Allis Ald. Tom Lajsic said he has received "at least a dozen calls" on the issue from residents, all against the bicycle path.

Residents did receive reassurance on two points. Neither proposal would require special assessments for property along the access roads, and there are no plans to remove the parkway crossings at South 72nd and 74th streets.

County Supervisor John Weishan said he has sought reconstruction of the parkway for 20 years.

"It's a road that needed repair," he said. "We want to make sure we cover all the bases. The decision that's made is going to affect the neighborhood for 20-25 years."

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