Controversy continues over proposed crosswalk art in Broadway District

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) -- You may have seen a lot of new murals popping up throughout Green Bay lately, but On Broadway is hoping to add a new type of art to its district.

On Broadway is proposing crosswalk art at the Improvements and Service Committee meeting Wednesday night. They would like to put art in two crosswalks on Hubbard Street that would run parallel to Broadway Street.

“It’s in the heart of Broadway, and we want to include more art in the district,” said Samantha Maass, program manager for On Broadway.

Maass said the designs have not been finalized because they are still in the proposal stage with the city.

“We will have to work with the artist when we get the final rules and restrictions from city on what we can and can’t do,” said Maass. “We want to follow all necessary procedures.”

According to Green Bay’s Public Works Director, Steve Grenier, the rules and restrictions are clear.

“This is forbidden. It’s not allowed,” said Grenier. “The Federal Highway Administration has come out with directives in the past with a very definitive in answer stating crosswalk art is prohibited.”

Knowing the administration’s stance, Grenier said violating it could cost the city federal funding. He also said it could distract drivers and pedestrians, which could lead to safety issues.

“If you paint art in crosswalk, between white markers, that sends conflicting messages to motorist and pedestrian, so what you are doing is increasing the probability that you could put a pedestrian in peril,” said Grenier. “I cannot recommend doing something that would expose the city to liability by violating that position."

According to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, there is an acceptable treatment when it comes to crosswalks.

“What is allowed is earth tones that simulate other paving materials,” said Grenier. “If you want to use a brick color and pattern, that is fine. If you do something that attempts to communicate a message, that is prohibited -- pictograms, art, repetitive patterns, those kinds of things.”

Those are all items Maass is reviewing and is hoping to discuss with DPW Wednesday night.

“Wwe want to play by the rules and doing this in a fair way so good for all ends,” said Maass.

“There is a position out there were this public artwork can exist. It just needs to be on sidewalk, not the crosswalk,” said Grenier.

Other communities have implemented crosswalk art, including Wausau and Milwaukee. Milwaukee has a crosswalk that looks like piano keys.

When asking Grenier about those, he said, “I reached to the public works in Wausau, asking them how they do this. ‘Are you not worried about suffering repercussions from federal highway?” and they were unaware they had a position on this at all,” said Grenier.

Grenier said once he told them about the risk of losing federal funding, public works in Wausau told them they will have to rethink its crosswalk art.

On Broadway's proposal is being discussed at the Improvements and Service committee meeting Wednesday.