Highway 53 Corridor Master Plan

Vision: “Put the Highway 53 Corridor and adjacent neighborhoods on the path to be an even greater place to live, work, and play for all people through balanced strategies."

The Highway 53 Corridor Master Plan creates a 15-20 year plan to enhance La Crosse's predominant entrance to those arriving from outlying communities, the airport, and the interstate.

The highway is part of the “All-American Road” as designated by the U.S. Department of Transportation / Federal Highway Administration. It's also known as the Great River Road and National Scenic Byway that runs from northern Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico.


The North La Crosse Business Association, in partnership with neighborhood groups, is the official champion and implementor of the plan.

How to Implement

This plan is approved by the City Council. To implement, projects must be prioritized into an improvement plan. Funding must be found to spark the change needed.

Identified Problems

  1. Problematic Pedestrian Crossings — i.e., 21 Vehicle-Pedestrian crashes in 10 years:
    George Street & Stoddard Street; George Street & W. George Street; Rose Street and Logan Street
  2. Sidewalks narrowed due to being infringed by fences, parking lots, building setbacks, trees, signs, or improper design standards
  3. Lack of snow removal make sidewalks impassable
  4. Low curbs resulting in encroachment
  5. Streetscape lacking that doesn't narrow sidewalks: greenery, furniture, pedestrian lighting, and wayfinding
  6. Higher than usual use of sidewalks for bicycling versus using side streets and difficulty crossing the Highway
  7. Bus Stops lacking benches, lights, and shelters plus inconsistent snow removal around stops.
  8. Caledonia Street/Old TOwne North: identified as critical to the local economy and neighborhood vitality.

Key Pulse Nodes

The plan identifies four pulse nodes where services and resources are focused to create high-intensity, mixed-use residential and commercial development with strong transportation infrastructure — being friendly, attractive, walkable, and differential in scale, character, and function.

Tools for the Oversight Committee

In addition to what's provided above.

From the Highway 53 Corridor Plan

Short-Term Recommendations

It is important to establish short-term design steps for organizational and planning tools to implement the redevelopment recommendations, which include the following:


  • Build Design Standards
    into the Zoning Ordinance for the most effective and legally sound strategy. Short-term: a design review committee. Long-term: written standards [see page 101 of the plan for details]
  • Site Plan Review.
    olster the newly adopted Site Plan Permit process for all development along the Highway 53 Corridor factoring in the City’s Comprehensive Plan and Design Guidelines, setback and build-to requirements, consistent facades, minimum glass requirements, sign controls, minimized curb cuts, parking lot location and buffering, landscape and lighting plans, stormwater management plans, parking requirements and drive-throughs.


  • Develop a Corridor Wayfinding Plan
    for those driving, walking, and bicycling to assist with finding destinations that highlight destinations off of Highway 53 (ex. Caledonia Street) and on Highway 53 for people who are walking or bicycling on a parallel neighborhood street.
  • Organization and Promotion.
    Organizing a diverse group of people to achieve the work tasks, build public/private partnerships, foster ongoing leadership, and provide a unified voice for the area will be the key to whether this plan succeeds or fails. 

Ongoing Recommendations

Simultaneously with the phases identified above, the Project Team will undertake the following ongoing activities.


  • Coordinate Objectives with City Departments
    The planning and engineering departments from both the County and City should refer to this document when considering development proposals along the Highway 53 Corridor. Developers should work with City and County Staff and refer to the plan when generating design concepts to better understand how their property fits into the Corridor Plan and expectations for public/private facilities. 
  • Develop a Financial Plan
    It is imperative that the City of La Crosse and La Crosse County, along with the local business community, research and develop practical financing options to facilitate real change. Financing projects can be done by qualifying for grant money, borrowing, or bonding. The City and County should create a master schedule outlining when grant cycles start and are awarded and their relationship to agency capital budget cycles. The funding strategy should be flexible to take advantage of any unexpected opportunities.
  • Assemble Land
    Pursue the acquisition of tax forfeit, foreclosed, or for sale properties identified as necessary to pursue the redevelopment vision created in this plan for the Highway 53 pulse nodes and could be acquired by the City of La Crosse or La Crosse County. Either entity will be cognizant of the Corridor Plan and the additional right-of-way needs at these intersections.
  • Help People Bike to the Highway 53 Corridor
    Demand for bicycling is expected to increase along and adjacent to the Corridor, especially as redevelopment occurs. While dedicated bikeways are not recommended on Highway 53 as they are on parallel off-streets, additional destinations and anticipated increase in bicycling will generate demand to and along the Highway 53 corridor. Several steps can help people bike through and to the corridor.
  • Create a wayfinding system for directing bicycle traffic to the defined pulse nodes along Highway 53. While the wayfinding should direct people to nearby destinations, it should also direct people from the alternative routes to destinations on Highway 53.
  • Identify treatments connecting the alternative routes to Highway 53, especially at the four pulse nodes studied in this plan. Many of the people who bike on Highway 53 are trying to reach destinations on Highway 53. Creating safe connections to the corridor will mitigate the additional time, inconvenience, and decreased safety of directing
    people off Highway 53.
  • Ensure that as the Corridor is improved adequate secure bicycle parking is provided at visible, safe and convenient locations.
  • Develop a Private Investment Incentive Fund
    Create an incentive program that recognizes businesses making voluntary aesthetic improvements. Supplements such as painting and landscaping can visually enhance the appeal of an area and are encouraged.
Vicki Markussen
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Author: Vicki Markussen

CEO/Founder, Engage Greater La Crosse



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