WALWORTH — The decision has been made. The DOT has announced its decision on the path Highway 14 will take through the village.
The antique store will be gone, along with two houses on the east side of the southern half of Main Street.
School district safety concerns remain unresolved.
Though the final plans are made, construction isn’t set to begin until 2020.
According to a map created by the DOT, instead of traffic driving around the square, highway traffic will flow in north and south on the west side of the square, where the current southbound traffic flows.
Walworth School Board President Kelly Freeman said she still isn’t happy with the DOT’s decision.
“It lacks such common sense to me that you move a federal highway closer to a school,” she said at the July 18 board meeting. “I just can’t imagine.”
Freeman said the map was released by the DOT at a special meeting July 10.
“We met at the Fontana Village Hall,” she said. “The village board was represented by the president ... the chamber was there. Our Walworth task force was well represented.”
The DOT expected school board members to be happy with the decision, Freeman said.
“There was also an aside that the school would be happy because they were moving the highway 15 feet farther away (from the school),” she said. “Instead of 38 feet, it’s going to be 53 feet (away).”
Other schools in the county face similar situations.
“Part of (the DOT’s) rational is that Highway 14 is within 49 feet of the Darien school,” Freeman said. “Well, they didn’t move the highway. They built that school around the highway. It’s not the same thing at all.”
Bypass still not an option
“I think it’s fair to say that (everyone) wanted the bypass,” Freeman said. “Everybody is in agreement with this. The state said that’s not going to happen.”
Proposed bypass routes take semitrailer traffic away from the village to the west.
“They would be using county trunk K which has already been upgraded for truck use,” Freeman said. “There are already trucks out there using it.”
Another concern is the businesses affected by the rerouted highway.
“You can see by the illustration that one of the problems is in front of the gas stations over there,” Freeman said. “It’s a dead end. What’s going to happen to those businesses? That was a good question that wasn’t answered (by the DOT).” Emergency vehicles may have more trouble moving through the downtown, too.
“Vehicles are going to have to go around the park (to the west),” Freeman said. “The DOT couldn’t believe that our police cars and such go down the wrong way, against traffic. Well, yes, it happens all the time.”
Village President David Rasmussen said he is glad the DOT decided on the shape of the highway through the village.
“The problem is trying to work on the details when the main concept hasn’t been decided,” he said during a phone interview July 22. “There are still a lot of undecided things about the plan for this, but the main thing is decided. The shape of the highway through the village will be that as straight as possible line.”
Rasmussen said he wants to talk with the DOT engineers.
“When their design people go in, they design the road the way they’d want it to be, as though it’s a brand new road,” he said. “They just design it based on their perfect design standards. Well, they don’t always work.”
Many parking spaces around the square will be eliminated, based on the current DOT plan.
“They’re just eliminating those parking spots that we have room for,” Rasmussen said. “They aren’t really thinking about our village, just the perfect model.”
Traffic flow on the north and east sides of the square isn’t officially determined yet.
The map shows angle parking facing east and south flowing traffic, as though the DOT wants to reverse the current flow of traffic around the square.
“People who come down Main Street have no way out,” Rasmussen said. “They can only make a right turn at (Kenosha Street). You’re going to push everyone through the alley.”
Rasmussen said that by eliminating most left turns, the DOT causes unintended consequences.
“They’re banning left turns,” he said. “You can’t do that. How do people get out? People will be trapped.”
As for the space where the antique mall currently stands, Rasmussen has no definitive plans.
“The state will own that land,” he said. “I assume it will be some parking and some green space. We’d like to keep the visibility as open as possible.”
The dead end created on the section of Main Street south of Highway 67 isn’t finalized either.
“The Geneva Lake West Chamber raised some concerns about those gas stations, saying how are people going to get in there,” Rasmussen said. “Well, the traffic situation is worse for them now. When you’re in those gas stations and the traffic is backed up (south) to the library, you can’t turn left or right.”
The lower volume of traffic on the dead end street will allow for easier turns in either direction onto Highway 14, Rasmussen said.
Other school news
A first draft of the 2013-14 budget was submitted to the school board.
Karie Bourke, administrative assistant, said the district could delay buying health insurance for its part-time employees because of a change in the implementation time line of the Affordable Care Act.
She said this change reduces the stress on the district’s budget.
Tax payers may see a tax levy decrease because of increased state aid, as well.
The school board met in closed session prior to the open meeting to discuss parent complaints that were submitted earlier this year and negotiations with the Walworth teacher’s union.