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School expresses concerns with highway project



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The Village's plan commission recommended this plan for Highway 14. It would require the village to acquire the Antique Mall and an adjacent residence.

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Freeman
November 30, 2011 | 08:02 AM
WALWORTH — The plan to reroute traffic from Highway 14 closer to the village's elementary school still doesn't sit well with most School Board members. However, there is basically nothing they can do about it.

On Monday night, during the Walworth School Board meeting, Sue Barker, an engineer with Crispell-Snyder who is working on the project, discussed the plans with the board.

"We know that you have some concerns about the project," Barker said.

The Village Board-endorsed plan, which also is the preferred plan for the Department of Transportation, will reroute Highway 14 east of the village's square. To accomplish this, the state will acquire the Antique Mall and a neighboring home. This plan will eliminate the 90-degree turns trucks make around the square. Madison Avenue and North Main Street would no longer be part of the highway and would become village streets.

Construction in the village is set to begin in 2016 or 2017, Barker said. The Village Board is paying $400,000 of the project. The board plans to generate those funds from a recently created Tax Increment Financing District.

School officials have voiced concerns that the village's plan will bring semi-trailer traffic closer to the elementary school, which will be dangerous for children around the school.

To address some of these concerns, Barker discussed building a brick barrier separating the school and the highway. To discourage children from jumping over the barrier, she also discussed adding a small fence on top of the bricks.

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Barker also said the DOT is looking at moving the drop off point for children away from Beloit Street, which is next to the Highway.

"One of the things we have been talking about is moving the drop off point to Fremont Street," Barker said.

School Board Mary Heyer said residents on Fremont Street have voiced concerns to the School Board about the amount of traffic on the road and expects they might have concerns if the drop off point is moved there.

During the meeting, School Board President Kelly Freeman blasted the village's plan for the Highway 14 project and said it did nothing to improve the village.

"Because of this we are destroying whatever character is left," Freeman said. "I find it incredulous, I find it maddening."

Heyer said she has heard concerns from residents about the plan, and called the village's plan a "travesty."

After listening to the board members concerns, Barker said the DOT has to listen to the elected trustees.

"The elected officials of the village need to speak for the village, that is the formal process," Barker said. "The DOT is supporting that decision."

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