Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

Board gives state’s Highway 50 project nod

by Rob Ireland

September 13, 2012

ELKHORN — The Walworth County Board gave the state the green light to expand Highway 50 to four lanes between Highway 67 and County Road F in the town of Delavan after a supervisor, who initially opposed the project, suggested changes.

Supervisor David Weber, of Williams Bay, proposed an amendment requesting the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to consider using traffic signals instead of roundabouts.

“When the project gets to the point where they will be close to digging dirt, they will re-evaluate it,” Weber said during the meeting.

Weber’s amendment also suggests that the DOT once again look at the lane usage, lane width and water management issues regarding Delavan Lake. His amendment also asks that the county’s public works department be involved in the final planning of the project.

“I think we would be more prudent to pursue the project and allow it to move forward with some documentation of these concerns,” Weber said.

The state isn’t under any obligation to implement the amendment approved by the board.

However, Weber said the DOT’s policy requires it to take a final look at the concerns of the public and this document helps outline those concerns.

The road project is budgeted at $37 million dollars of which 80 percent will come from the federal government and 20 percent will come from the state.

The county board approval was the last piece of local support needed. The project will also need final approval from the South Eastern Wisconsin Planning Commission and the DOT.

The first time the proposal came before the county board, the supervisors, including Weber, rejected the proposal. This time the board approved the project with Weber’s amendment on a 10-1 vote.

Supervisor Daniel Kilkenny, of Delavan, was the lone vote against approving the project. However, on a separate vote, he favored Weber’s amendment.

Kilkenny believes the DOT is overestimating the population growth and car use projections that show the project is needed. He argued that the DOT looked at the county’s growth during its last big population spike.

“We will continue to grow, but I don’t think at the same amount,” he said.

He also said he doesn’t think Highway 50 will see large amounts of congestion because motorists can travel on alternative routes.

“When I’m concerned about time I get on Highway 12, which is a four-lane intersection, and ride to Elkhorn to 43, which is a four-lane intersection, and take that to Delavan,” he said. “People do have this ability to take a different route.”

Kilkenny said he was also concerned about environmental threats caused by the expansion, and the use of eminent domain on landowners. He added that if future traffic patterns indicate that the highway expansion is needed, the project can be revisited.

Weber said if the project doesn’t occur now, it may be 10 to 20 years before it is revisited.

“If we wait and lose 10 and 20 years to get there, we would have already created a problem,” Weber said. “County F coming from the south and County F going to the north are already hazardous intersections.”

However, Kilkenny said those intersections can be addressed without approving the entire road project.

“If there are trouble spots at intersections I think they can be addressed without doing this massive of a project,” he said. “We can take a targeted-approach to this issue.”

Weber also said the plan looks at improving the industrial traffic that comes from Mound Road, which connects to the city of Delavan’s industrial park. After the meeting, Weber said a plan hasn’t been finalized, but it would connect Mound Road to Highway 43 or Highway F.

On Monday afternoon, Weber said he hoped the DOT would consider installing a traffic light, not a roundabout, by the intersection of Highway 50, Town Hall Road and South Lake Shore Drive. He is hoping that would help preserve the Mobil gas station and Abracadabra Shear Magic.

Town of Delavan’s perspective

Ryan Simons, town of Delavan chairman, said the town board has approved the plan that was presented by the DOT.

Simons said multiple community meetings were held at the high school, and the board reviewed traffic studies.

“We were educated to what level of service this segment needed in order to be safe,” Simons said. “Looking at the actual data, and facts that are there, this stretch of highway needs to be four lanes to be safe.”

Simons said the town had three goals regarding the project, which were to save businesses, the lake and lives.

Roundabouts, Simons said, allowed the town to keep the businesses it has. He said the town was also concerned that salting more roadway would have a negative affect on Delavan Lake.

“We did some research and it showed that there was an increase in the amount of a salt in the lake over the last 15 years, but it was minuscule, and we also couldn’t determine whether or not it had any detrimental affects to the lake,” Simons said.

Two lane troubles

Along Highway 50, between Geneva Street and Highway 67, the four-lane road narrows into two as motorists travel adjacent to Mercy Medical Center and Geneva National.

Supervisor Joe Schaefer, town of Lyons, questioned why this area hasn’t been addressed and, said it didn’t make sense to approve a four-lane road throughout Delavan when the traffic switches to two lanes in this location.

However, DOT officials said they plan on looking at that section of Highway 50 later.

“The challenge has been since the village of Williams Bay bought the land, which is now referred to as Kishwauketoe, and they have now designated that as a conservancy,” Weber said. “There has been a resistance by the last village board to consider anything and what they need is about a 50 to 60 foot corridor.”