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City committee OKs lighting plan for bike trail

Published On: Dec 10 2012 10:10:30 PM CST   Updated On: Dec 11 2012 08:01:30 AM CST

A city committee is moving forward with a lighting plan on a commuter artery for bikers, but some neighbors are still opposed to the plan.

The full Madison Common Council on Tuesday night will take up the lighting plan for the southwest commuter bike trail, running from Breese Terrace to the South Beltline Highway, following approval by the Pedestrian, Bicycle and Motor Vehicle Commission.

The proposal was first discussed last year at this time, when it was included in the mayor's capital budget. After some delays and work by the city, the lighting plan will now be up for a vote, much to the chagrin of some neighbors.

The path sees more than 2,000 commuters a day during peak times of the year, but it turns into a road less taken once nightfall arrives, which is why Alderman Brian Solomon has been working to get lights along the trail.

"The people that I've talked to are terrified about biking on it at night," said Solomon. "I do think it's absolutely a safety issue for people who want to bike."

Solomon and the city argue that lighting is needed for more people to use the trail. After a year of discussion, two test lights were installed to give concerned homeowners whose back yards back up to the path an idea of what it would be like.

"It's still quite bright when you're walking on it," said Sandy Stark, who lives along the path. "Matter of fact, I walk on it less in the area with the test lights than I walked on it before in pitch dark with a flashlight because it is really difficult on the eyes."

Stark and some of her neighbors have argued they understand the need for light but feel this design isn't the right one.

"Get some grants, get some greenspace ideas, get a landscape architect in there," Stark said. "Don't make it all uniform and like a road to the airport."

The city Pedestrian, Bicycle and Motor Vehicle Commission disagreed with many neighbors Monday night, giving the plan the green light to go to the full council.

"I think a few years from now people, will look back and say, 'I can't believe we ever argued about this,'" said Solomon.

The Madison Common Council will take this plan up at its meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. The lighting would cost between $250,000 to $300,000, with the money included in the city's capital budget.

While some neighbors still want that lighting design changed, city staff argued Monday night that they have changed the design multiple times. They claim the lighting some neighbors would prefer would be cost-prohibitive, require more light posts and ultimately more maintenance than the city could handle.

Neighbors said they simply want to preserve the quality of life along the path.

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