Highway 53 Corridor Study

La Crosse, WI | Public Works


ISG provided balanced strategies in collaboration with the City of La Crosse and other design partners to create a comprehensive plan for the Highway 53 corridor, including recommendations to jump-start redevelopment efforts, improve all modes of transportation, and increase the livability of surrounding neighborhoods.


Highway 53 from 1-90-Exit 3 is a primary gateway into the City of La Crosse, and the development of a master plan had been a high priority for years. The City needed a flexible implementation strategy to guide future growth within the corridor that would be an attractive destination for strong businesses, vibrant neighborhoods, and beautiful surroundings.


ISG was selected to be part of the consultant team that contributed to a flexible master plan for the City’s major artery through its Northside community neighborhood. The first impression for visitors to
La Crosse, the City wanted a plan with a focus on the interrelationship between land use and transportation, as well as the design of a safe corridor that provided access to the natural amenities offered by the nearby Black River. The City also prioritized design considerations for all modes of transportation, including pedestrians, bicyclists, transit, motorists, and freight users. The resulting comprehensive plan, US Highway 53 Corridor Study (Corridor Study), included analyses of land use, market conditions, parking, sidewalk width, transportation and traffic, and bicycle and pedestrian circulation, and will offer guidance on City and stakeholder decision-making for the next 15-20 years.

Engaging the community was an important aspect to the planning process. In order for a large-scale vision to be realized, community stakeholders such as businesses, developers, and residents needed to work together towards a cohesive vision. Organized, community engagement strategies included three public workshops, one open house, numerous focus groups, and business-owner meetings, all with the express purpose of imagining the future potential of the corridor. Stakeholder feedback was gathered, detailed, and analyzed by the consultant team and steering committee, and short and long-term recommendations were outlined to foster incremental improvements to shape Highway 53 into a more cohesive marketplace and focus of community activity.

The pulse-node development concept served as the underlying design guideline for the Corridor Study. Envisioned as a string of high energy mixed-use and commercial areas that serve the neighborhoods and broader community within, the nodes are connected with less intense land uses that provide a buffer of quieter amenities and living spaces. The pulse-node theory of development requires careful consideration of development and improvement opportunities in the areas between the higher intensity nodes. These areas act as critical connections and transitions to allow for each high-intensity node to be unique. It allows travelers within the Corridor a sense of reprieve and establishes the discovery of the next unique area with the intention of increasing the energy and attachment to the community.

Four main intersections were analyzed for redevelopment opportunities based on bicycle and pedestrian safety improvements and enhancements to access and circulation. Long-term design recommendations were outlined as a tool for evaluating redevelopment proposals and making decisions about public and private investments. Enhancement strategies for sidewalks, intersections, streetscaping, connectivity, and multi-modal forms of transportation were included to ensure that incremental site design and architectural, streetscape, and roadway projects contribute to the desired image for the Northside of La Crosse. Additional recommendations for stormwater best management practices, wayfinding signage, and gateway monuments were added to create a cohesive identity while beautifying the surroundings.

The consulting team and steering committee provided short-term recommendations for further organization and movement on the plan. Recommendations included site plan review, development of a corridor wayfinding plan, building design standards into the zoning ordinance, and promotion of the Corridor Study. Implementation of the Corridor Plan is now part of the City of La Crosse’s comprehensive plan. A concerted effort of property owners, residents, businesses, and the development community will be needed in order to realize the vision and create an even greater place to live, work, and play for all of La Crosse.

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