Curve on new Highway 59 causing concern

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Stacy Vogel
Friday, November 27, 2009
— Mary Schmidt-Kettle has been concerned about the curve leading from the old Highway 59 to the new Highway 59 since the day it opened, she said.

So while she’s sad and upset about the fatal crash that happened there Tuesday night, she’s not surprised, she said.

“I remember the first day it was open thinking, ‘Oh my God, if I didn’t know this was here and completed and seen it in the daylight, I would’ve gone straight into a ditch,’” she said.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation was examining the stretch just outside of Milton on Wednesday to see how to make people more aware of the approaching curve and stop sign, officials said.

Reyna Portugal, 40, Janesville, died Tuesday after her car failed to negotiate the curve and continued straight, colliding with a piece of construction equipment off the road at about 6:19 p.m., according to a news release from the Rock County Sheriff’s Office.

Imprudent speed and a wet road contributed to the accident, the release says.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean Portugal was speeding, said Capt. Jude Maurer with the sheriff’s office.

“I drove it myself this morning, and there’s no way you can approach (the curve) safely at 55 mph,” he said.

The new stretch of Highway 59 runs east from the intersection of Highway 26 and St. Mary Street before rejoining the original Highway 59 just before Vickerman Road. It opened Nov. 18.

The old Highway 59, known as High Street in the city, remains open, but it curves steeply to the southeast to meet the new Highway 59 just before the end of the new stretch.

Traffic officials included the curve, instead of letting the old highway merge with the new one near Vickerman Road, to give drivers a clear view of traffic when they get to the intersection.

“The reason for the curve is so when you come up to new Highway 59 you’re kind of square to it, (so) you have good vision right and left,” said Dan Pruess, DOT traffic supervisor.

But Schmidt-Kettle and other neighbors are upset that the curve wasn’t more clearly marked when it opened, she said. Neighbors have told her and her husband about several runoffs in the middle of the night since the new highway opened, she said.

The day the new highway opened, nothing marked the curve, Schmidt-Kettle said. Later, one or two signs or barricades showed up near the curve, she said.

By Wednesday afternoon, barrels, barricades and arrows all marked the curve, she said.

The signs and barricades are temporary solutions during the holiday weekend, Pruess said. The DOT will consider more permanent measures next week. Those could include permanent signs and reflectors.

Schmidt-Kettle wonders why the curve didn’t have warning signs right away.

“How can you open a road and have a sharp curve like that and not have it marked?” she asked. “It’s very sad that somebody had to lose their life.”

Last updated: 11:51 am Thursday, December 13, 2012

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