NewsProject: Drive Safer


MKE traffic calming project places row of permanent obstacles to force drivers to slow down along Locust

Fresh concrete and asphalt force drivers to lower their speeds near Sherman Park. "They'll slow down because they don't want to wreck their car."
Traffic circle.png
Posted at 4:57 PM, Nov 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-04 19:41:18-04

MILWAUKEE — Several Milwaukee neighborhood streets are now lined with traffic calming measures to curb reckless driving.

A two-block stretch of Locust St. near Sherman Blvd. used to be a straightaway, but residents say a newly installed traffic circle followed by two speed humps makes it nearly impossible for drivers to go over the posted limit.

Fresh concrete and asphalt have created an obstacle course intended to force drivers to lower their speeds on a street next to Sherman Park.

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"They'll slow down because they don't want to wreck their car,” a woman named Tamia said.

Jordan Morales with the Sherman Park Community Association says if you don’t believe infrastructure changes can address reckless driving, a trip to 40th and Locust might change your mind.

"You know that this isn't just a wide open street,” Morales said. “You're going to have to turn your wheel, you're going to have to slow down at a certain point."

Morales says the traffic circle requires drivers to turn because it covers parts of both lanes, back-to-back speed humps demand slow speeds to avoid bottoming out, and what’s called “pinned-on curb bump outs” stop drivers from illegally passing on the right while offering protected crosswalks for pedestrians.

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"Once you make a street more complex, it reduces your perception of a margin of error,” he said. “It increases your risk analysis and so you're more alert to the roadway."

This is just one of five traffic calming projects the Department of Public Works is completing this fall by using nearly $4 million in federal Covid relief funds. DPW spokesman Brian DeNeve says the common theme amongst the locations is they’re all in residential neighborhoods next to parks.

"These are areas that obviously are very popular in their neighborhood with visitors and residents so people like to go on foot to the green space so we'd very much like to make sure that in doing so, we can put in these measures and have a nice, safe environment for everybody,” DeNeve said.

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DeNeve says each location is re-engineered differently based on what’s best and practical for the street. Locust Street is the only one where a traffic circle is utilized due to a lower speed limit of 25 m.p.h. and an intersection that’s prone to crashes.

"That does reduce the severity of any kind of crash, especially a t-bone crash because any driver, motorist approaching it essentially has to slow down,” he said.

Milwaukee police data shows nearly 800 crashes have taken place on Locust in the past five years. Morales thinks the variety of improvements will significantly lower that figure in the future.

"I think it proves we're now taking the neighborhoods seriously in this city,” he said. "These streets have been ignored for far too long."

DPW still has road closure signs and orange cones along the Locust Street construction site. In order to finish the project, DeNeve says signage still needs to be installed to make drivers aware of the changes.

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