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Willy Street business owners call for change after multiple building crashes

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MADISON (WKOW) -- People who work and own businesses on Madison's Williamson Street are calling on city officials to enact change after multiple vehicle-building crashes over the past decade.

On Monday, an SUV crashed into the side of the Change boutique on the corner of Williamson and Baldwin streets. Genevieve Smith works across the street as a hairdresser at Cha Cha, and says she's scared something like that will happen to her workplace.

"There's been tons of crashes into buildings within the past decade," Smith said. "It's kind of scary to work right there in the window where potentially a car could come crashing through."

Next door to Change, Hatch Art House business owner Tammy Schreiter said the same thing. Her business was nearly hit in February while she was still inside.

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The Baldwin Street-Williamson Street intersection has seen five property damage crashes since the beginning of 2021. (Photo: Ward Jolles, WKOW)

"I was standing by my front doors of Hatch Art House, and a car came along the curb and took out the bike rack behind me and ended up hitting the corner of the building," Schreiter said.

She said that she would like to see columns or other structures put up in the area to prevent cars from bombarding through.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, community maps website, there have been five property damage crashes on the Williamson-Baldwin Street corner this year alone.

Traffic engineers say it's most likely the street's narrow layout that's to blame.

"I think the buildings on Willy Street are closer to traffic than on a typical street," said traffic engineer Tom Mohr.

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City Engineer Tom Mohr says it's the proximity of the buildings to the roadway that makes the street so dangerous. (Photo: Ward Jolles, WKOW)

Mohr says he and other city engineers have been working to fix the problem for years now.

"Where you have the same crash on a different street a car might come to rest in someone's front yard," Mohr said. "If you have that same crash on Willy Street, it comes to rest in or on a building."

Nikki Anderson, the owner of the Change boutique that was hit on Monday, has resettled into a different business location that her landlord helped set up for her. It's smaller and just off of Willy Street, but Anderson says it'll do for now.

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Nikki Anderson hangs up a dress in her new store location on Livingston St. (Photo: Ward Jolles, WKOW)

While she's grateful no one was hurt, she's hoping the most recent incident will be "the straw that broke the camel's back" for city officials.

"It's not safe," Anderson said. "And I'm hoping that people take it seriously and that this just raises awareness on how something needs to change."