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Fire chief wants to slow down conversation on adding speed bumps



FILE - A traffic circle at the 11th-and-King street intersection, near where residents want to add speed bumps, between King and Cass streets. (PHOTO: Rick Solem)

A speeding issue in an area of one La Crosse neighborhood had the Board of Public Works discussing adding temporary speed bumps.


The idea was to put those up on 8th-through-10th streets in the 200 block of King to Cass streets.

La Crosse Fire Chief Ken Gilliam said the city needs to look at the impact of such traffic-slowing measures, because it’s a nuisance for fire trucks.

“Four minutes of no oxygen, you’re looking at brain damage,” Gilliam said Thursday on La Crosse Talk PM. “We’re in a business where seconds count. Well, a 10-second or 20-second slowdown to deal with a speed bump, you don’t think that it’s a big deal, but statistically, it makes a fire engine go 10 seconds slower.

“When there’s two or three of them in a row, and now there’s a 30-second delay. When you’re choking on something and you can’t breathe, it’s a matter of perspective of how quickly you want to get that fire engine there.”

Gilliam, on La Crosse Talk PM, also discussed whether the recently vandalized Hatched Baby should get inherited by his department, as well as updates on the situation with the city’s new fire department buildings and how area volunteer FDs are run.

While not putting off the concerns to a speeding issue in that area, it is a stretch where there are already two traffic circles on King Street and the entire stretch of Cass is bump outs.

“We have had traffic circles in town where a couple of our fire apparatus are too big to navigate through them, so we’re having to route around them,” Gilliam said. “Those are just points of frustration. We’re dealing with it the best we can, and working with city engineering to make sure that what we’re building (is) not impeding our access to people’s homes.”

Gilliam added that there were 136 calls for emergencies over the past three years to the area, but noted not all were life-threatening emergencies. He noted one was a skateboarder hitting a parked car.

“There wasn’t a high documentation of issues, however to their credit, there are members living (in that area) that believe there are speeding issues,” Gilliam said.

Gilliam wasn’t opposed to slowing traffic. But, before adding something like speed bumps, data should be looked at — from within the city, as well as how those traffic measures impacted other towns.

“From my perspective it was a plea to council to slow the conversation down,” Gilliam said with no sense of irony. “Do a full study on what we’re doing and look what other communities have already been through.

“Our position on the fire department is just, ‘Let’s do it based on data and need, not just a desire because of a belief.’ If there’s increases, you’ve got a city engineering department, a city fire department, a police department. We need to look at all the data and make sure we’re making smart moves.”

The measure was voted down.

Host of WIZM's La Crosse Talk PM | University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point graduate | Hometown: Greenville, Wis | Avid noonball basketball player and sand volleyballer in La Crosse

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