“Make no little plans …
… they have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope …” — Daniel Burnham 1864-1912.
Every once in awhile, Madison thinks big. The city and the state thought big when they replaced the burned out Capitol in 1906-17 with the most beautiful statehouse in the nation. Madison thought big again when it completed Monona Terrace in 1997. Brother Mike Blaska chaired the Dane County Board of Supervisors when the decision was taken five years earlier to partner with the City, Tommy Thompson, and private business. Monona Terrace jump-started the revival of what had been a moribund Downtown.
Now Madison is thinking about revitalizing the Lake Monona waterfront between Williamson Street and Olin Park. The Wisconsin State Journal explains:
The coming competition will invite designers to craft a master plan that would better connect Capitol Square and nearby neighborhoods to the lake, improve water quality and aquatic habitat, celebrate Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural legacy and preserve the lake’s cultural history from the Ho-Chunk Nation to present.
Including pedestrian bridges or even a terraced park built over John Nolen Drive to the lakeshore, extending Law Park into the lake, creating better spots for shore fishing and other activities, expanding Monona Terrace, and a striking public boathouse and marina designed by Wright in 1893.
No little plans, indeed!
The Madison Common Council will be asked to authorize the design competition 02-01-22. A 13-member ad hoc committee would recommend a preferred master plan by September 2023. Blaska Policy Werkes hereby proposes (mouth the Griswold family Christmas Vacation drum roll) … an aerial tramway!
It would run between Alliant Energy Center along Lake Monona to Monona Terrace — a distance of 3 miles. Would:
- Integrate both venues for big shows like World Dairy Expo.
- Be its own tourist attraction.
- Help attract conventions and shows to Madison.
- Operate regardless of weather.
- Connect visitors to hotels, restaurants and entertainment on either end.
- Utilize ample vehicle parking at Alliant Energy Center.
- Alleviate surface traffic congestion on the narrow causeway.
- Cost an arm and a leg!
Don’t fork me off!
Forking off John Nolen Drive along the railroad tracks toward Brittingham Park another 1.5 miles would take the tram to the Kohl Center, Camp Randall Stadium, and the University of Wisconsin — again connecting to parking at the fairgrounds, avoiding game-day traffic gridlock! (Map here.)
The indentured servants have taken the tramway in Albuquerque, which ascends 4,000 feet to the top of Sandia Peak. Imagine seeing Lake Monona and downtown Madison from on high! With stops to the hotels on the other side of John Nolen Drive and at Olin Park. For a nominal fee, of course. Can operate continuously for big events, on a limited schedule otherwise.
They’re big in Europe: 97 in Switzerland, 59 in Italy, 40 in Austria, 35 in France, 16 in Germany. Only 14 in the United States. Only one-third serve ski hills. (Trams v. gondolas.)
A one-mile aerial tram opened in Portland in 2006; it averages 6,000 riders per day in the summer. Round-trip ticket is $5. Cost $57 million — four times original estimates! Then again, Madison isn’t going up mountains. Only other passenger tramway in the U.S. is Roosevelt Island Tramway in NYC, built in 1976 and upgraded 12 years ago for $25 million. Each cabin holds 125 people.
Blaska’s Bottom Line: Anyway, it’s a big idea.