Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

DOT has new plans for highway

by Jade Bolack

November 29, 2012

WALWORTH — New Department of Transportation plans may create a roundabout at one of the Highway 14 intersections in Walworth.

According to the maps from an October meeting with the Walworth Elementary School Board, village board and Geneva Lake West Chamber of Commerce, two of four new proposed routes for the highway have roundabouts, and four of the six plans divide the village square.

Before the meeting Oct. 30, there were two potential plans for the rerouting of the highway.

The first plan, approved by the village board, placed two-way highway traffic on the west side of the square. Traffic would then flow north and south through the current school parking lot, about 38 feet from the school building (see other maps on page 3B. If this plan is implemented, the shape of the village square will change, and the antique mall and a house on Main Street will be removed.

The other plan, released prior to the meeting, widened the intersections around the square and maintained the flow of one-way traffic around the square (see map A). Parallel parking would replace the current angle parking around the square.

The DOT released different variants of this plan, one of which includes a median in the northwestern intersection of Highway 14.

If the southeastern intersection is widened far enough, businesses on the corner, King Dragon and Buzz Hair Design, will need to relocate.

The new plans are a result of continued disagreement during the meeting, according to the DOT.

“It is in the best interest of the school district and village board to collaborate and come to agree on an alternative because the No-Build Alternative is a very real and possible alternative,” the DOT wrote in documents from the four-group meeting. “The No-Build Alternative would remove angled parking in downtown Walworth and would not significantly improve safety or operations in the area.”

Two of the new plans incorporate roundabouts, either at the southeast or northwest intersections of the square (see maps C and D on page 1B). Both of these options would route two-way highway traffic through the current square. No businesses or homes would be relocated for this plan, but the village would have to dedicate the surrounding land as parking lots or park space.

The third option (see map B on page 1B) cuts the highway through the park, similar to the roundabout designs. The north end of Main Street would become a dead end with more parking space on the east side of the square, and the antique mall would relocate.

The last option (see map E) is similar to the current village-approved plan, but it moves the highway farther from the school. The antique mall would relocate for this plan.

School reaction

Jacob Ries, both school board and chamber member, said the chamber was not asked about the highway plans until recently.

“Probably two weeks before that meeting, the DOT said, oh, by the way, chamber, we want you to come,” he said. “We didn’t have a lot of opinions on this because we weren’t brought in ahead of time.”

After the meeting, Ries said the group met to discuss the options.

“My understanding is the DOT wants the chamber to serve as mediators,” Ries said. “The DOT wants the chamber to facilitate the next meeting.”

School board president Kelly Freeman said the new options weren’t discussed until the very end of the meeting.

“They only suggested those at the very end of the meeting,” she said. “Maybe we should have a couple of new options because we can’t agree.”

Freeman said she wasn’t happy with the meeting format or discussion.

“We met in Waukesha. There was a detailed agenda, and also there was a matrix we were told to fill out,” she said. “It lasted a lot longer that we thought, and nothing was decided on.”

The school board isn’t trying to make a decision for the DOT, Freeman said.

“We are elected school board officials,” she said. “We make policy for the school, and of course, we’ve been vocal in opposing the (village-approved) plan because it’s going within 38 feet of our building. The other plans that are here, we, as board members, are mute.”