Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

Highway concerns resurface at school

by Rob Ireland

March 08, 2012

WALWORTH — Objecting to the village’s plan for Highway 14, almost 100 people attended a meeting at Walworth Elementary School Monday night. Residents at the meeting raised concerns about the future of the road.

At the recommendation of the Village Board, the Department of Transportation intends to move forward with an alternative that moves Highway 14 and Heyer Park over to the east. The road will curve, but traffic along the highway won’t have to make any sharp turns.

Some residents oppose the plan because it brings Highway 14 closer to the school. They are also concerned because the village plans to spend $400,000 in tax increment dollars to fund this alternative.

School Board President Kelly Freeman said the district has undergone expansions and renovations throughout the school’s history and she believes this plan will affect the integrity of the school’s lot.

“Valuable taxpayer’s monies have been spent with each purchase of land. And to think now that we will lose the parking lot which we spent years in acquiring bit by bit will now be relegated to a highway which will come within 78 feet of our building,” Freeman said. “It is incredulous to think this might happen.”

Since 2008, the DOT has met with the Village Board to discuss its plans for reconstructing Highway 14. The DOT presented the board with a plan to widen the intersection at Highway 14 and Kenosha and Beloit streets. The DOT’s plan still had truck traffic make four turns around the square. Both plans require the state to acquire the Antique Mall and tear it down.

Because the village’s preference has an additional cost, the DOT is requiring the village to contribute to the plan.

During the meeting, Walworth resident John Kilkenny expressed his concerns with the village’s plan. He and other members of the community suggested rerouting truck traffic along South Main Street, through the village’s industrial park and back onto Highway 14.

The plan Kilkenny proposed had been previously discussed at both Village Board and Plan Commission meetings. Crispell-Snyder engineer Sue Barker said there are concerns with this proposal because of the railway on the road.

After the meeting, petitions were passed out to circulate in the community. One of the petitions objects to the village spending $400,000 on the project.

The other petition opposes bringing the road any closer to Walworth Elementary School. The Village Board and Plan Commission shouldn’t expect to see that petition, which will be sent directly to Gov. Scott Walker, State Sen. Neal Kedzie, State Rep. Tyler August and DOT Secretary Mark Gottlieb.

The only elected village official at the meeting was Trustee Kent Johnson, who defended his decision to vote for the Highway 14 project.

Johnson told people at the meeting he believed the village’s alternative improved safety.

“It is not all that much closer,” Johnson said. “I wanted to see the truck traffic on one side of the square.”

During the meeting, Kilkenny said he suspects village officials will state that this plan had been discussed for years, and will object to the concerns coming in at the 11th hour.

“If a bad idea is a bad idea it doesn’t matter if someone brings it up two years ago or 20 minutes before Mrs. Knorr is sitting outside blocking a bulldozer,” Kilkenny said.

After the meeting, Barker said it wasn’t too late for the DOT to change its plans for the road. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2016.

However, Barker said it was unlikely for the DOT to make a change to the plan without the support of the Village Board.