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DOT looks at village square


What changes are on the horizon?



WHAT'S NEXT? Village President Todd Watters wants to have a joint meeting with the Village Board and the Plan Commission to discuss the proposals with representatives from the Department of Transportation. After this meeting, a community meeting will be held at Walworth Elementary School to discuss the proposal. Trustee David Rasmussen said he is encouraging everyone in the community to attend this meeting. A meeting date hasn't been set yet.
January 15, 2009
Walworth — The Wisconsin Department of Transportation is looking at several ways to modify Highway 14 around the village's square to improve traffic patterns and make it easier for large trucks to turn.

The DOT has submitted four proposals to the village of Walworth, two of which include extending the highway through the square.

On Tuesday, DOT Project Manager Allen Gilbertson emphasized that the planning is still in preliminary stages. The project will not move forward without input from village officials and the public.

"The square is something that defines the community, but creates some problems," he said. "If the community is willing to live with that, we are fine with that."

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Village trustees have raised concerns about the possibility of changing the square.

Gilbertson said the DOT wants to repave highways 14 and 67 in 2015. He said as part of that project, the DOT is looking at making changes to the village's square because of semi traffic on Highway 14.

The roads are not wide enough for semis to make the turns, and the large vehicles have a history of driving over curbs.

Also, there is a history of traffic accidents around the square.

During Monday night's Village Board meeting, Police Chief Chris Severt said the DOT estimates that 70 semis travel through the square every hour during normal business hours.

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Gilbertson also raised concerns about the angle parking around the square, which he said creates safety concerns.

"The biggest problems with the square is the angle parking," Gilbertson said.

The four proposals

On Monday, trustees were able to get a first glance of the preliminary proposals.

One proposal adds an island to the intersection of Highway 14 and Madison Street. It also widens several corners, which will make it easier for semitrailers to negotiate turns.

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Another second proposal would require the state to purchase the Antique Mall on the corner of Beloit and South Main streets. It also would require the state to purchase part of the parking lot at the King Dragon.

This would allow the state to widen the turns at the intersection.

A third proposal would cut the village square in half. A large amount of green space would abut the parking lot next village's shopping center and the businesses along Madison and North Main streets.

The fourth proposal would extend the highway through the square. Green space would abut Beloit and North Main streets.

All four proposals include removing the angle parking in the village.

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Reactions to proposals

Several village officials indicated that splitting the square isn't an option they want to pursue.

"I would prefer the least amount of change in the square," Trustee Kent Johnson said. "I'm not in favor of tearing down the Antique Mall."

Village President Todd Watters said the first two options appear to be the most viable because they maintain access to the village's downtown businesses.

"(The first and second proposals) also preserve the downtown park as a single usable piece of property rather than dividing it into what I believe would be two smaller pieces of land with limited usefulness," Watters said. "Based on this belief, my first reaction is that the road should not cut through the village square."

Trustee David Rasmussen said he isn't in favor of "butchering the appearance of downtown."

"It would forever looked butchered and we simply did it to accommodate truck traffic in Walworth," he said. "It's not the cars that can't turn."

Rasmussen also is concerned that if semi traffic continues to increase on the highways, traffic will increase in other areas of the village.

"Just about everyone in Walworth will cut down the side streets," Rasmussen said.

Gilbertson understands that some of the proposals may not be popular and the DOT doesn't have to pursue them.

"At this point I don't like to eliminate ideas," he said.

He said some other proposals, such as purchasing the Antique Mall, may be too costly.

"They may not have enough benefit to be worthwhile," he said.

Highway 14 bypass

Rasmussen said the only real solution to the problems with the square is to build a bypass to divert the semi traffic.

He said the trucks that come down the highway continue to get larger and larger and that is why the square can't accommodate the traffic.

If a bypass is in the village's future, some of the proposed changes may not be needed.

"I don't see a point in doing any of the changes, if someday they, are going to do that bypass," Johnson said.

Village officials often discuss a Highway 14 bypass, which would remove semi traffic from the village completely.

However, Gilbertson said a bypass project is currently not in the DOTs books.

"It's not something the DOT is actively pursuing," he said.

Rasmussen said drawings are at Village Hall, which map out a proposed bypass.

The fast track

Currently the project is scheduled for 2015, but if Chicago hosts the Olympics in 2016, that date may move up.

Gilbertson said he doesn't know what the impact of the Olympics would be on the project. If Chicago hosts the Olympics, it will affect some projects, but he isn't sure if this project will change.

However, he said the new stimulus package would not affect the project.

He said the stimulus package is geared for projects that are further along in the planning stages and this project wouldn't be considered.

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