Madison mayor fixed on Bus Rapid Transit route along State Street, despite new opposition

Published: Jul. 14, 2021 at 10:12 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 14, 2021 at 10:26 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - In the ongoing debate over Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) stations in Downtown Madison, the city’s mayor remains committed to the route along a busy commercial road.

Downtown Madison, Inc. announced its opposition Wednesday against BRT stops along State Street, joining the interest of many shop owners.

“We absolutely believe that BRT will be a boon for downtown but better left in potentially other locations,” President Jason Ilstrup said. “We think that compromise really is in the form of finding new locations for those stations that are, honestly, just feet from where they are today on the same route.”

Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said the route will boost shopping along the street.

She added, the city is six months into an environmental study of the project, and it has already submitted a route plan to the federal government to secure $80 million in funding.

“If we were to change our routing at this point, we would have to go back to ground zero, restart all of our studies, and we would potentially lose all of that funding and our place in line with the federal government,” Rhodes-Conway said.

As NBC15 has reported, State Street business owners have pushed back along the city’s proposed route in front of their shops.

District 4 Alder Michael Verveer, who serves the downtown area of Madison, said when council members passed resolutions to introduce the BRT system in 2019, they were told the downtown route will be revisited.

“I’m hearing two conflicting things,” Erin Vranas co-owner of Parthenon Gyros, told NBC15 in June. “This is something where it’s very confusing to me.”

According to Tom Lynch, city transportation director, the preferred BRT route has been on State Street since a 2013 report.

This week, the mayor announced an updated station design, making the stops smaller and walls transparent to allow for visible storefronts.

Goodman’s Jewelers owner John Hayes said, “[The mayor has] had some adjustments. I agree. But I think those were in the back of her mind, how to start big and push down to get it accomplished. A pushed-down version is still not really workable for State Street.”

Rhodes-Conway said moving forward, she expects environmental studies to be done within the next six months. Then the city will continue its design process with the Federal Transit Administration.

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