Construction will begin later this month on Milwaukee’s first raised bike lane, a section of pavement built up four inches above the traffic lane on Bay St., roughly from Beulah Brinton Park off E. Potter St. to the Wrought Washer plant at S. Lenox St.
The bike lane is part of a larger project to improve cycling between the Bay View neighborhood and Downtown Milwaukee, and the alternative picked by the Department of Transportation after it rejected proposals to install a bike path on the Daniel Hoan Memorial Bridge.
When tied to the Kinnickinnic River Trail, the route will include the bike lane, an off-street path on a former rail corridor and lanes marked for bikes on S. 1st St., Kinnickinnic and S. Water St.
Scheduled to be completed in 2012, the bicycle route will link the Oak Leaf Trail in Cupertino Park to the connection in Lakeshore State Park.
It has been studied since 1997.
Other large cities, including New York and Portland have experimented with various approaches to separate bikes from motor vehicles. Only Vancouver, B.C., and Bend and Eugene, Ore., have installed the raised bike lanes used more commonly in Europe, according to Dave Schlabowske, the bicycle and pedestrian coordinator in the Milwaukee Department of Public Works.
Included in the overall Milwaukee bicycling master plan, this will be Milwaukee’s first project to go beyond paint on pavement.
“Right now, we’re doing this as a pilot,” Schlabowske said. “As far as I know, this is the first such facility in the state of Wisconsin.”
The bike lane will be slightly more than five feet wide, extend about 1,700 feet on Bay St., and cost $178,000. It will be installed as part of a larger portion of the Downtown to Bay View Bikeway that will cost $1.85 million, according to city figures.
Federal grants will be used to pay for roughly $1.5 million, with another $378,000 in city funds devoted to the project.
Phase II is set for construction in 2012.
That will connect the bicycle lane on Kinnickinnic Ave. to the KK River Trail at E. Maple St., and follow an off-road path on abandoned rail bed to E. Washington St. From that point, S. Water St. will be reconstructed, the railroad crossings improved and a bike lane added to connect to E. Pittsburgh St. and an on-street pathway to the lakefront.
“What we’re trying to do is match the on-road experience with the separated trail experience for the users,” Schlabowske said. “For many people, a bike lane is not as pleasant an experience as a separated bike trail.”
Ald. Tony Zielinski, who represents the area, called it an improvement in safety for bicyclists using the city streets.
"Bay View embraces new ideas and thinking out of the box, so it's very appropriate that it be done in this area," Zielinski said.
A pre-construction meeting with planners and the contractor, Stark Asphalt, will be held on June 21. Construction will follow.