It may be a few more years until residents and business owners see the reconstruction of Monroe Street.
As part of the 2017 capital budget, Madison Mayor Paul Soglin delayed various projects around the city, including the Monroe Street reconstruction, in an effort to reduce spending and refocus funds on parks and sustainability.
While the initial construction was slated to begin in 2018, Soglin’s budget decision now pushes the construction back to 2020. As basic infrastructure improvement remains a priority for the City Council, Ald. Sara Eskrich, District 13, said she is extremely disappointed and frustrated the project keeps getting pushed out of the budget.
No new projects: Soglin slashes budget requests for 2017 capital budgetIn an effort to refocus city efforts on affordability measures, Madison Mayor Paul Soglin halted various agency requests for new Read…
“Residents keep being told this is going to happen,” Eskrich said. “This is needed infrastructure and it offers opportunities to look at pedestrian safety and improvements, which is a huge priority.”
For local businesses owners on Monroe Street, this decision leaves them at odds when it comes to moving forward.
Since the project keeps getting delayed, business owners have not been able to adequately plan future business models, Eskrich said.
The lack of certainty and confusion those residents face when planning for the future, Eskrich said, is “not the way to do business.”
This concern rings especially true for Lyschel Bersch, owner of Karner Blue Candle and Supply.
With the uncertainty regarding the construction, she said the biggest impact on her business will be other retailers leaving and not being replaced.
“Without enough retail, very few retail stores can survive,” Bersch said. “You’re not creating a community anymore … Soon enough, we’re gonna lose our retail — if not all of it.”
A retail store is different from a restaurant in that it takes time to build a clientele, Bersch said. With the constant delay, she said her store is not able to grow their retail portion.
But the story is different for restaurant owners.
Kate Caitsirianni, owner of Crescendo Espresso Bar and Music Café, said the delay has given her more time to establish more clientele. Still, she said the street still needs to be made safer.
“The potholes are no good — there is definitely work that needs to be done,” Caitsirianni said. “[The reconstruction] will help the street visually. When you look at Williamson St. or Johnson, it’s beautiful and safer.”
Even though Caitsirianni said she remains confident that her business will be able to retain customers when the construction eventually occurs, she worries there will be a lot of traffic that may disrupt people’s commutes and ability to get to businesses on the street.
What makes Monroe Street reconstruction”unique,” Eskrich said, is that it’s entirely a city street, meaning the council does not have the opportunity to use any other federal or state highway dollars to help support the cost.
Calling it a “substantial investment,” Eskrich simultaneously passed the “Greening of Monroe Street” resolution last year when she reintroduced the plan in the capital budget.
In order to ensure her district is “shovel- ready” when 2018 comes around, Eskrich said she is working with an engagement resource team of the key stake holders to gather resident feedback and input. Her hope is to focus on how to make it a sustainable street.
“I would argue that when it comes to city budget, you have to start with public safety and infrastructure because those are the basic city services we all as residents expect our tax dollars to be paying for,” Eskrich said.
Eskrich plans to place the project back into the 2017 capital budget when the council votes on Soglin’s proposal in November. She said she anticipates overwhelming support from her colleagues.