Regional projects attract state funding 
 
By Jeremy Harrell
Daily Reporter Staff 

Oct. 10, 2002

A kind light is shining on a host of regional transportation projects after state government officials on Wednesday parceled out nearly $20 million to make the jobs happen.

Gov. Scott McCallum announced the funds as measures to build a "quality and comprehensive transportation system" that will enhance economic development, tourism and recreation. In all, the $19.8 million will go to 42 projects, both large and small, in all corners of the state.

In Milwaukee, the county, on behalf of the North Point Lighthouse Friends, received $980,000 to pave the way for a $1.23 million restoration of the landmark in Lake Park, said John Scripp, a Milwaukee attorney and president of the friends group. The lighthouse is on a national landmark registry, he said.

The restoration would revive a structure that grew dormant in the late 1800s, when the lighthouse became just a scenic attraction in a park designed by renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead, who designed New York's Central Park, Scripp said.

"In one sense, it represents a reuse of government property that's no longer needed," he said. "And in another sense, it fills a hole dating from 1895."

The lighthouse stands 75 feet tall and its main structure is composed of iron and steel, Scripp said. It's in bad need of a new paint job and overall touchup, he said.

The project would also include the renovation of the adjacent keeper's quarters, a 2,500-square-foot house dating from the 1880s that Scripp said has been chopped up in the last century, rendering it nonfunctional.

The plan is to make both into a gallery showcasing Milwaukee's link in Wisconsin's maritime history, he said. The friends' association also plans to convert the keeper's quarters into a space that could be used for corporate retreats and similar functions, providing the lighthouse with a steady income stream to cover overhead, Scripp said.

The project's start date depends on when the funds become available, either in July 2003 or July 2004. The job would also entail grading around the lighthouse and keeper's quarters, making them a seamless part of the park, Scripp said.

On the trail

The city of Beloit got a $512,000 stipend that will lead to an overall $1 million project to build a three-mile bike path along the Rock River connecting downtown with the state line, said Rep. Dan Schooff, D-Beloit, who served on the committee that oversaw the disbursement of funds. With this latest sum in hand, the job could get rolling by next spring, he said.

Schooff said he and city officials are thinking big with this project. It fits in with Beloit's ambition to turn the riverfront into a development zone, and the path could eventually link to the north and south with trails covering most of Illinois and Wisconsin, he said.

"When we talk about regional cooperation, there are great paths in the Rockford area," Schooff said.
 
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The city of Madison also received funding for a bike path, in this case more than $1.4 million to construct a $1.8 million project known as the Missing Link Trail. Madison has a highly used bike path running along Lake Monona and another originating near Camp Randall stadium, but there has never been a trail connecting the two routes, said John Coleman, a geographic information systems technician with the University of Wisconsin-Madison who helped city officials develop the project.

Coleman said he rides to work each day and uses a bike trailer to take his children to school and day care. In recent years, his bike and trailer have been struck by cars because he's had to travel on busy city streets, he said.

"Particularly when transporting kids through the center of town, I always felt it was more dangerous than I was comfortable with," Coleman said.

As a consequence, he took to back alleys and parking lots near the Kohl Center, and he said he eventually found an abandoned rail line that the city and state owned. With a 50-foot right of way, the old rail line would be a perfect width for the Missing Link Trail, Coleman said.

"It struck me as a no-brainer for an urban bike path," he said. "This, although not cheap and easy, is still cheaper and easier that it could have been."

The city will soon set out on a three-year process to convert the rail bed, starting with planning and more land acquisition and culminating in the construction of the new path, Coleman said.

The state Department of Transportation made all the funds available through its Statewide Multimodal Improvement Program. The largest award went to Racine and Kenosha counties, which received $1.76 million to buy eight new buses.

Jeremy Harrell can be reached at 608-260-8570 or by email.

 
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