Parklets

Milwaukee parklet Parklet used as a dining area
Greenfield parklet 
Parklet used as a sidewalk
Sacramento parklet 
Parklet used as a public space ​

Introduction

A parklet is an extension of a sidewalk or terrace adjacent to the travel lanes that provides additional space or amenities for businesses or the public. A parklet:

  • Is typically installed in parking lanes and may occupy several parking spaces
  • Uses all or part of the width of the adjacent parking space from the curb
  • Is typically constructed as a temporary structure to enable easier removal, street or utility improvements, street repairs and in colder climates, snowplowing
  • May be open to the public or reserved for the adjacent business(es)
  • May include an outdoor dining component

WisDOT policy

WisDOT does not allow parklets on state trunk highways and recommends against installing them on connecting highways. This is a precaution to better ensure pedestrian safety by maintaining as much distance as possible from a live traffic lane. 

However, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, WisDOT may allow a temporary parklet solely for outdoor dining use and as long as there are no adverse impacts to the safety, maintenance and operation of a state trunk or connecting highway. This is to assist with economic recovery since WisDOT has received requests to utilize additional space on the right-of-way to accommodate social distancing guidelines. 

NOTICE: The temporary​ parklet program ended on October 15, 2020. Questions may be directed to the contacts found at the bottom of this​ webpage.

Approvals

Before parklets may be installed on state trunk or connecting highways, a city, village or town (municipality) must approve an ordinance or other official resolution authorizing them. The municipality shall be responsible for permitting all parklets on state trunk or connecting highways and shall implement a permitting process to do so. The municipality shall also enter into a separate agreement with WisDOT (State Municipal Parklet Agreement or SMPA) that details the various aspects of parklet design, installation, operation and removal. 

Designs

WisDOT shall review and approve all parklet designs. Below is a general list of items that a municipality shall address in a parklet permit for outdoor dining use:

  • Ensure sightlines are maintained for motor vehicle movements, traffic control devices and pedestrian crossings
    • All parklets shall remain at least 20 feet from a marked or unmarked crosswalk
  • Do not obstruct driveways, alleys, pedestrian ramps, building entrances/exits, fire hydrants or utility access areas
  • Coordinate with the appropriate transit agency regarding potential impacts to bus stops
  • Use appropriate nighttime traffic control devices (reflectorized delineators, tall cones, barrels, curb stops, etc.) to direct and separate vehicle traffic from the parklet
  • When using parking lanes for a parklet adjacent to travel lanes with a speed limit of 30 mph or less, stay at least six feet away from the nearest travel lane unless temporary concrete barrier is used
  • Comply with all Title II American with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements (see diagrams)
  • Do not use any planters, portable heaters, or other items that may become projectiles if struck by a vehicle
  • Do not dig or drill into any hard surfaces (pavements, curbs, sidewalks) without written WisDOT approval
  • Do not block any drainage structures or impede drainage
  • Do not place any advertising signs in the right-of-way per Wis. Stat. s. 86.19(1)

Use of parking lanes or travel lanes for parklets will not be permitted adjacent to travel lanes with a speed limit over 30 mph. WisDOT may consider closing a complete street block if a detour can be established that does not adversely impact the safety, maintenance and operation of the through route while accommodating the transport of oversize/overweight vehicles (if the closed block did the same). WisDOT recommends using the sidewalk for an outdoor dining area and the terrace or parking lanes for pedestrians. 

Cost

Federal law requires WisDOT to charge fair market value (FMV) for the private use of public right-of-way. This includes any parklets that are approved under the SMPA. However, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has decided to approve FMV exceptions on a case-by-case basis for the temporary use of sidewalks and parking areas in highway right-of-way for additional restaurant seating. This is due to, "the extraordinary and unprecedented nature of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) public health emergency and subsequent efforts to reopen local economies safely."

Installation and removal

Parklet installation and removal on state trunk highways requires a separate work on highway right-of-way permit from WisDOT. The permit shall be issued to the municipality, who will have oversight for this work whether the municipality, a business or private contractor performs the work. Proper work zone traffic control is required during installation and removal. All parklets are considered temporary and must be removed no later than October 15, 2020.  

Process

The following steps are typically used to authorize a temporary parklet for outdoor dining use on a state trunk or connecting highway:

​The Municipality:

​WisDOT:

​1

Enacts ordinance or resolution to allow parklets. 

Implements a parklet permit process.

​Answers questions from municipality with regards to the parklet program.

​2

Downloads a copy of SMPA for review. Accepts as is or makes revisions and submits to WisDOT.

Works with WisDOT to finalize/sign SMPA.

​Reviews SMPA if revisions were made within 7 business days.

Works with municipality to finalize/sign SMPA.

​3

Contacts WisDOT to request a temporary parklet for outdoor dining in a specific location (include map). This may be done concurrently with 1 and 2.

​Reviews location to check for potential conflicts with WisDOT projects or issued permits.

​4

Submits parklet design to WisDOT.

Works with WisDOT to finalize parklet design.

Reviews draft parklet design and responds to municipality within 3 business days.

​Works with municipality to finalize parklet design.

​5

​Issues parklet permit to business; sends copy to WisDOT.

​Issues work on highway right of way permit for parklet installation if on a state trunk highway.

Questions

Direct specific questions regarding the design, installation, operation and removal of temporary parklets for outdoor dining use to a region traffic engineering staff person listed below. See transportation region offices to view region boundaries by county.

Direct general questions regarding the parklets program to:

Bob Fasick
Wisconsin DOT
Bureau of Highway Maintenance
4822 Madison Yards Way, 5th Floor South
Madison, WI 53705
(608) 266-3438
robert.fasick@dot.wi.gov