West Allis finds a way around Zoo Interchange detour plan

City has parking solution in mind for businesses

March 18, 2014

West Allis — A Zoo Interchange detour plan will likely not cost five West Allis businesses their street parking after all.

City transportation engineers have found a way to restore eight street parking spaces by carving out room for them in the extra-wide sidewalk in front of the businesses on Lincoln Avenue at Beloit Road. Design has not begun yet, but engineers are confident those spaces can be created.

Because of the detour, more traffic will flow along Lincoln, and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation wants to keep it flowing as it turns left onto Beloit Road. The problem is that intersection has been a bottleneck for years.

State transportation officials want to remedy that with changes to the intersection. As initially proposed, those changes included eliminating street parking for use as a second through lane.

Business owners — including a sports bar, a caterer and a legal office — protested, saying they would be heavily impacted by such a plan.

In response to those concerns, the city considered alternatives. The one the city favors — trimming the sidewalk space — might result in parked cars protruding a bit into the nearest traffic lane, but would still result in the two lanes that the DOT wants, said Peter Daniels, the city's principal engineer.

"This will meet the need, I think," Daniels said.

That's a huge relief for attorney John Balistreri, who was afraid he would have to move from the place his family has practiced law for some 50 years and where his elderly estate-planning clients depend on parking close to his office.

When the DOT's detour plans became public last fall, Balistreri feared the resulting loss of parking would put him out of business. Now he's more hopeful.

"If it works out for all of us, that would be great," he said this week.

In fact, Balistreri said he suggested carving into the sidewalk to restore parking some time ago. With a lack of other alternatives, the city came back to that one. Balistreri did note that snow removal could be a problem if the curb cut doesn't start at the corner.

"But I'm willing to give it a look-see," he said.

Snow also was a concern for Harry Strahlendorf, owner of Harry O's Second Base sports bar, who isn't entirely comfortable with the revised parking plan.

"Where am I supposed to park my beer trucks?" Strahlendorf asked, wondering whether the city would allow big semi-trailers in the alley behind his business. He also isn't sure eight spaces will be enough, especially considering the presence of a wellness center that has moved into the neighborhood.

Strahlendorf repeated his criticism that a detour to get around the Zoo Interchange and return to Interstate 894 so far south is unnecessary. Drivers will more likely take Greenfield Avenue, he said.

"Who's going to drive all the way to Lincoln?" he asked.

However, Chris Hager, a DOT engineer, said such the Greenfield Avenue route will be impacted by I-894 construction, as well.

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