City to hold public meeting on Hoover Ave train overpass Tuesday May 6

The city of Stevens Point is studying options for building either an overpass or an underpass across the railroad tracks on Hoover Ave just north of the intersections with Industrial Park Rd and Joerns Dr. The current at-grade crossing causes frequent significant delays on a daily basis because of the many trains that pass. People who bicycle and walk on this section of roadway have the same delay issues as other road users.

Development on the east side of Stevens Point shows no signs of slowing, as evidenced by activity in the Portage County Business Park and in the recently created East Park Commerce Center. The need to give employees, customers, and the general public a full range of travel mode options, including bicycling and walking, will steadily grow in this region. Suitable accommodations for bicycling and walking traffic must be included in any grade separation project goals.

The public meeting will be held on Tuesday May 6 from 5:30 PM to 7:30 PM at Spectra Print (2301 Country Club Dr). The meeting announcement on the Stevens Point city website asks attendees to use the Woodward Dr entrance past the guard shack to access the building from the parking lot. A brief presentation will begin at 6PM, with an open house format before and after. This meeting is open to the public, and attendees may arrive and leave at any time.

At the April 14 Stevens Point Board of Public Works meeting, there was a presentation with slides by an AECOM representative about the Hoover Ave grade separation options. This presentation showed many detailed drawings regarding these options. Statements made at the meeting indicated the city favored an overpass option due to cost considerations.

That April 14 presentation did not allow for questions from the public, and the designs presented during that presentation are not available on the city website. The biking and walking features I mention next are based on my observations at that meeting but may be in error since I had no opportunity to examine the drawings from that presentation more closely.

In the designs shown for both the overpass and underpass options, it appeared that there were bike lanes on the roadway surface in each direction. In addition, there appeared to be a multi-use path at curb level on the east side of the roadway surface that connected with the current multi-use path on the east side of Hoover between Industrial Park Rd and Joerns Dr. The designs also showed a sidewalk on the west side of the overpass and underpass options. The designs included other bicycling and walking features to connect with the Heartland Trail on both Industrial Park and Joerns.

The public meeting on May 6 should provide an opportunity to examine the proposed designs more closely to better understand the accommodations proposed by this project for bicycling and walking traffic.

The biking and walking accommodations mentioned above are similar to what is currently on Patch St and Industrial Park Rd, with on-street bike lanes in both directions and a multi-use path on one side (although Patch/Industrial Park does not have a sidewalk on the other side).

A key difference is that the overpass is proposed to have 4 standard travel lanes (two in each direction), which matches the roadway cross-section to both the north and south. Patch/Industrial Park has only one standard travel lane in each direction.

Another key difference is that the speed limit is likely to be at least 35 MPH on this overpass or underpass, whereas Patch/Industrial Park has a 25 MPH speed limit. The 4–lane roadway will likely encourage motor vehicles to frequently travel above this speed limit. In this setting, a standard 5-foot bike lane delineated by a 4” paint stripe is inadequate for comfortable bicycling. It is advisable for everyone’s safety and comfort to create a buffer of 2-3’ between each bike lane and its nearest standard travel lane.

This project also provides an opportunity to create better connections along the Heartland Trail connecting Industrial Park to Joerns. The current connection isn’t terrible, but it is a bit awkward at the Industrial Park intersection. Since a design process for this area is in progress, this is an opportunity to eliminate the awkwardness in this connection along the Heartland Trail.

There are many bicycling and walking issues to address on this project. By attending Tuesday’s meeting, Poky Pedalers can influence project staff to provide design options that make bicycling safer and more comfortable. More information from the city about this meeting can be found here.

Every street project is an opportunity to make bicycling better in Stevens Point. I look forward to seeing lots of Poky Pedalers at this May 6 public meeting.

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