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Winnebago Street

A bicyclist travels down Winnebago Street on Madison's east side. 

Madison’s City Council failed to gain the 14 votes needed to override Mayor Paul Soglin’s veto of plans for the reconstruction of Winnebago Street.

The Council voted 10-8 in favor of overturning the veto. With the veto sustained, the city will have to reconsider design plans for reconstruction. 

“There is no option that’s been approved. We start over,” said District 6 Ald. Marsha Rummel. “The people who talk about a comprehensive approach, I think that’s the way forward.”

Alds. Ledell Zellers, District 2; Amanda Hall, District 3; Shiva Bidar, District 5; Zach Wood, District 8; Arvina Martin, District 11; Sara Eskrich, District 13; Denise DeMarb, District 16; Samba Baldeh, Distrrict 17; and Matt Phair, District 20, voted to override the veto.

At its May 1 meeting, the Council adopted a plan for construction that would have narrowed Winnebago Street and removed one side of street parking from Sutherland to Bashford streets. It also would have allowed trees on both sides of the street, 41 street parking stalls and curb extensions.

A second option supported by city staff would have allowed trees on one side of the street, 60 on-street parking stalls, curb extensions and pedestrian islands.

Mayor Paul Soglin vetoed the Council’s decision May 8. In his veto message, Soglin said Madison's "nicest streets" are narrow and generally no wider than 30 feet, making it challenging to accommodate individual lanes for motor vehicles, pedestrians, bicycles and parked cars.

While some alders and members of the public advocated for the “bold” decision of removing parking, Soglin said the city should consider how the project fits into Madison as a whole.

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“This is not about being bold. It’s about being fair. It’s about balancing values,” Soglin said. “It’s about realizing that in older parts of the city, we don’t have the right of way to do what’s called ‘complete streets.’”

The idea of “complete streets” is to plan for roads to handle motor vehicles, pedestrians, bicyclists and public transportation. Planning for all modes of transportation often results in difficult decisions about what is allowed in the public of right away.

Bike advocate and former alder Robbie Webber encouraged the City Council to make the hard decision of prioritizing bikes over parked cars.

“We have to start making choices for the next generation, to build the 21st century transportation system and the network that will support it,” Webber said.

Share your opinion on this topic by sending a letter to the editor to tctvoice@madison.com. Include your full name, hometown and phone number. Your name and town will be published. The phone number is for verification purposes only. Please keep your letter to 250 words or less.

Abigail Becker joined The Capital Times in 2016, where she primarily covers city and county government. She previously worked for the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism and the Wisconsin State Journal.