‘It’s deeply frustrating’: Despite efforts to slow East Washington Ave, racing and accidents continue

MADISON, Wis. – Despite efforts from elected officials in Madison to slow traffic on East Washington Avenue, racing, accidents and fatalities have continued.

This week, the sixth pedestrian in 2021 was killed along the roadway. On Saturday, a high-speed race led to a blown red light and two people being sent to the hospital.

“It’s all too familiar,” said District 6 Alder Brian Benford. “It feels like every weekend, we’re all waking up to the fact that people are maimed and injured. Sadly, people have been killed. There’s just no words for it.”

Earlier this year, the city launched its “Vision Zero” plan, hoping lowered speed limits would eliminate the number of traffic fatalities in Madison completely. While the lowered limits included portions of East Washington Ave, the speeding has continued.

I applaud what the city is planning as far as vision zero and other things that they’re looking at as far as street enhancements,” Benford said. “But ultimately it comes down to the culture, the mindset of the drivers that are engaging in unsafe behaviors, the speeding and the noise.”

Benford says fixing the problem could ultimately require the city or state coughing up millions of dollars to restructure the roadway with roundabouts in certain areas. 

“I don’t know if there really is an answer to that other than massive changes of the avenue,” Benford said. “Until we do really profound things with the street along with additional traffic enforcement, we’re going to continue to see these unsafe traffic behaviors and we’re going to continue to see people hurt, and deaths, and that’s unacceptable.”

While an increased police presence could also make a difference, Benford says doing so could require resources the city doesn’t have. In addition, he feels this solution would only be temporary. 

It’s a multi-layer approach,” he said. “Lowering the speed limit, we’re seeing that hasn’t been as effective. You throw in in traffic enforcement, but our police resources are so limited at this point. The only thing that’s really going to alleviate this problem is we have to redesign East Washington Ave. That’s going to require cooperation with the state DOT.”