Residents voice concerns over condition, safety of West Avalon Road

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Jim Leute
Monday, July 28, 2014

JANESVILLE—As a candidate for the Rock County Board, Greg Addie heard neighbors' concerns that the road leading to their subdivision is in poor condition and creates safety concerns.

Now elected, Addie is taking those concerns to the Town of Rock, which is responsible for the only road leading to the Keeneland subdivision, and the city of Janesville, which Addie said is the prime beneficiary of property tax dollars “with very little return back to these residents.”

A town official said Monday that while West Avalon Road is in need of repair, it's one of many in a queue constrained by budgets.

Addie, a former Janesville City Council member, lives in one of about 80 homes in the subdivision bordered on the north by the Highway 11 bypass and to the south by West Avalon Road.

There are no entrances to the east or west, and the only way in or out is on Secretariat Drive, which intersects with West Avalon.

The subdivision is in the city of Janesville, but West Avalon Road is in the township.

Addie recently surveyed people who live along West Avalon Road and in the subdivision.

He received about 50 responses—totaling about 160 pages—many of them detailing specific safety hazards and poor road conditions on West Avalon.

The top concern, Addie said, is safety on a road residents believe needs to be widened and repaved.

A specific concern is a school bus stop at the entrance to the subdivision, which sits at the bottom of a hill coming from South River Road.

“Particularly in winter, you crest that hill and the sight line to the school bus is very short,” he said. “My fear is that a swath of kids is going to get killed.”

Other concerns included vehicle wear and tear, physical pain caused by the rough road, spilled beverages and subdivision residents unable to enter or exit the subdivision during snow or storm emergencies because of the one entrance and exit.

In their surveys, residents report several near-miss traffic accidents.

So far, Addie said he and his constituents have received little help from either the town or the city.

He said that while it's the town's responsibility to fix the road, the city bears some responsibility because it is the main beneficiary of the $250,000 or so collected each year from subdivision residents in the form of property taxes.

In addition, Addie said the city should be responsible because many of the road's poor conditions were created by the construction of the subdivision and added traffic from people who live there.

Rock Town Chairman Mark Gunn on Monday referred questions to attorney Fred Wesner.

Wesner said Addie has not approached the town board and officials have not seen his survey.

They are, however, aware of problems on West Avalon Road, Wesner said.

Poor conditions are not unique to West Avalon Road or the town of Rock, he said.

Municipalities around the state are struggling with reductions in state aid and other budget caps that have limited what towns can spend on road repairs.

“We still spend a significant amount every year, and we did Tripp Road in the last two years, which was really in dire straits,” Wesner said. “We do stuff every year, but we just don't have the money to do it all.”

With the current price of asphalt, Wesner speculated the town's budget could cover just one mile of a complete repaving project.

“We have 52 miles of roads in the town,” he said.

Addie said he planned to present his concerns to the Janesville City Council on Monday.

He said he contacted City Manager Mark Freitag about West Avalon Road.

Freitag, Addie said, was willing to consider a partial annexation that would include West Avalon and the properties along the 1.1-mile section of road.

Maggie Hrdlicka, management information specialist in Freitag's office, said West Avalon Road is not in the city's jurisdiction.

The city has no immediate plans to make repairs, she said.

“We have issues with our own streets,” she said.

Hrdlicka said the city has a cooperative boundary agreement with the town that will expire in 2016.

Any possible annexations would likely be discussed then, she said.

Wesner agreed that it's likely West Avalon Road will be part of future annexation discussions.

Whether or not the city would have the money to make the repairs is uncertain, he added.

As a county board member, Addie said, he would ask for a detailed safety review of West Avalon Road.

The review, he said, would be based on state Department of Transportation standards.

If the review deems the road unsafe, Addie said, both the town and the city could face civil liability if they do not improve the road or its perceived safety hazards.

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