APPLETON, Wis. (WFRV) – Appleton alders voted for major changes on College Avenue on Wednesday night.

All but one alder voted for a lane reconfiguration project on a busy portion of College Avenue in downtown Appleton that stretches from Drew Street to Richmond Street/Memorial Drive.

“It slows traffic down, creates a safer corridor, and gives us an opportunity to move people who are on bikes, skateboards, or using bird scooters into their own safe lane,” said Alderman Alex Schultz who voted for the lane reconfiguration plan.

The plan makes several major changes to College Avenue. It reduces this stretch of road from four lanes (two in each direction) to three (one in each direction and a middle turn lane at the intersections). It would also add bike lanes on both sides of the street.

The alder’s vote followed lengthy discussions. Many alders expressed how difficult this decision was for them to make.

The meeting also included a public comment with residents on both sides of the issue speaking out.

“A lot of the retail and businesses operate on very small margins, if you cut down the traffic in half you’re going to hurt those businesses,” said one local business owner.

Proponents of the plan said lowering the number of lanes on College Avenue will slow down traffic, reduce noise, and make this stretch of road a more pleasant place to travel for both pedestrians and drivers. They believe this will actually entice more people to come to downtown Appleton.

There are also people who are excited about the bike lanes that will now get added. There are currently no bike lanes on this stretch of road and signs instruct cyclists to walk their bikes if they ride on the sidewalks.

Even though the city will sandwich the bike lanes between moving traffic and parked cars, local cycling enthusiasts said they still think the bike lanes make things a lot safer.

“I think it’ll be safer than what it was, there’s always that little bit of learning curve when there’s something new,” said Wheels and Sprockets Service Manager Curt Emerson. “It’s a good thing it’ll just take a little time for everybody to get used to it.  

Alderman Schultz did acknowledge that the lane reduction would likely add a few minutes to drive times on this stretch of College Avenue. However, he said he believes the safety advantages outweigh the minor inconveniences that drivers may experience.

This is a pilot project that will last 18 months and the alders said that they can reverse the project if it doesn’t pan out the way they had hoped. Appleton’s Department of Public Works officials will send out the project for public bidding this month. According to a timeline provided by the city, they hope that work can begin on the project this summer.

The project will cost the city $130,000. City officials will evaluate the project in the spring of 2025.