Changes at North First Street and East Johnson: More than Safe Commuting

Did you notice that the house on the corner of North First Street and East Johnson Street was demolished in early December? Do you want to know what that has to do with improving the safety and quality of our neighborhood? The demolition of the single-family home is just one of the changes this intersection will see in the next few years.


After the elderly resident moved out of the house at 217 North First Street in 2014, the City started the process of purchasing the property (Picture: Indira Ceylan)

After becoming vacant, the City of Madison purchased the property. Needing a lot of updates and missing a driveway and garage this single-family home on one of the busiest corners of our neighborhood would have been a tough sell. Demolishing the house is one of several improvements of this bicycle and pedestrian corridor. Without the house at 217 North First Street cars turning right from First Street will have a less obstructed view of bicyclists and pedestrians approaching from the east. Already in 2014, the City constructed a two-way trail starting along the now-demolished house. The emerging path is going to be a convenient and safe connection between the Northside and downtown Madison.



The City contractor filled the hole left by the basement after the house and shed were removed (Picture: Derek McRoberts)

By clearing the site, Pennsylvania Park, the green space along East Johnson between North First and North Second Street, has significantly gained in size. This is just one reason the Sustainability Task Force, a committee of the Emerson East Neighborhood Association, is thinking hard about how we can improve this space. At the Neighborhood Association meeting on December 7, many neighbors got together and talked about a vision for Pennsylvania Park. Popular themes were arts, transportation, and ensuring nearby neighbors are protected from noise. Imagine a piece of art or an artistic sign welcoming everyone to our neighborhood – removing the house on the corner made this an ideal spot!

In 2019, this intersection will see further change. City Engineering is working on plans for resurfacing East Johnson from North Baldwin Street to First Street and to widen North First Street. This allows adding car lanes to avoid too long lines of cars waiting at the traffic lights, and improves the overall safety for pedestrians and bicyclists.


Plans presented by City Engineering in November 2016 show further changes to the intersection at East Johnson and North First Street (Source: City of Madison Engineering)

Even more changes are due to the construction and operation of the Madison Public Market. Plans have not been finalized, but the Public Market will be located on or near the current City Fleet Services Building. Most likely, traffic of all kind will increase on North First Street. As neighbors we can play a role so these changes don’t deteriorate safety and quality of life, but have the contrary, positive effect. Personally, I can’t wait to bike across First Street every day on my way to work without being worried I might get hit by an illegal right turn at red. I get excited thinking about strolling to the Public Market to see what’s been made and sold there.