Downtown Madison, Inc. reimagines future of State Street as pedestrian mall

State Street

MADISON, Wis.– A new report from Downtown Madison, Inc. is reimagining the future of State Street, with plans to make the space more vibrant and livable.

“It’s such an important street and has been throughout history,” Downtown Madison, Inc. President Jason Ilstrup said. “When people think of Madison when you’re not from here, you think of State Street.”

Downtown Madison, Inc.’s report proposes converting six blocks of State Street into a pedestrian mall, allowing businesses to expand into the street and people to move more freely.

“We need to do everything we can to help the local businesses to make sure State Street is open and welcome to everybody,” Ilstrup said.

The idea ranges from eliminating all traffic to keeping some public transit and just adding street art.

Ilstrup said the pedestrian mall concept has been floating around Madison for decades and the conversation to do it soon is just beginning. The city approved a more immediate solution that still brings people to the area.

“We believe that transit is the front door to our community, not our back door,” Madison’s Director of Transportation Tom Lynch said.

The city already reduced bus flow on State Street by about 30 percent this year, according to Lynch.

With a $1.3 million dollar grant, Metro Transit traded in three diesel buses for electric, which emit less fumes and noise into the air.

“We’re hearing their concerns and that’s one reason why we are changing our fleet that’s going to be on State Street,” Lynch said.

Regardless of whether or not a pedestrian mall is in State Street’s future, Ilstrup says the community needs to act now to save its businesses.

“Hold on now, survive now so that you can thrive in the future as a business,” Ilstrup said.