Facelift for N. Sherman Ave. has pedestrians breathing easier - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Facelift for N. Sherman Ave. has pedestrians breathing easier, businesses worrying

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Crossing N. Sherman Avenue is always a little bit nerve wrecking for Mary Johnston.

She lives about a block away from the four-lane road, and wishes the City of Madison would do something to make the street safer.

"There's a crosswalk but because of the volume of traffic, and they're not yielding to pedestrians generally speaking. It's just a little nerve wrecking, especially when you get to the curb and it's icy and that just slows you down a little bit more," Johnston said.

Johnston may get her wish.

The Pedestrian, Bicycle and Motor Vehicle Committee met Wednesday and approved a $100,000 project to reconfigure N. Sherman Ave and add islands and bike lanes. It's designed to make it safer for pedestrians and bikers.

"What I hear from my constituents on a regular basis is that they're afraid to cross the street. And that's just not right," said Ald. Satya Rhodes-Conway (District 12).

Up to 17,000 cars and an estimated 447 bicycles and 321 pedestrians use N. Sherman Ave. on an average weekday, according to a City of Madison news release.

Some Northside businesses, however, do not support the project because less traffic could mean fewer customers.

"The majority of businesses on N. Sherman are small businesses. And if you take away that drive by traffic, it's a very fragile business community. And we're afraid some of the businesses wouldn't be able to sustain that loss," said Steve Nelson, owner of DuWayne's Salon and a member of Madison's Northside Business Association.

About 40 percent of DuWayne Salon's new clients come from drive-by traffic, according to Nelson.

Business owners feel the reconfiguration could result in a loss of about 800 cars driving past their stores every day. Faced with more traffic, some drivers would take Packers Ave. instead, according to Nelson.

If this is the case, Nelson said he may have to lay off his receptionists or reduce the stylists' hours.

Ald. Rhodes-Conway contends that slower traffic could actually lead to more visibility for N. Sherman Ave. businesses.

"They're going to have better access to business both in visual access and seeing what you're driving by, but also in terms of being able to turn into the business and make that last minute decision, 'Oh I do want to stop and get Italian food'," Ald. Rhodes-Conway said.

The project goes to the Common Council on Tuesday for a final vote.

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