Residents decry Janesville highway project
Residents Howard and Mary Johnson knew better. They brought their own lawn chairs. Johnson was one of 150 people who converged on Town Hall. Half were standing.
The other half were yelling at Wisconsin Department of Transportation project engineer Mark Westerveld and other DOT officials before the meeting even started.
The residents were fuming over a DOT study of two possible plans that would route a three-mile Highway 11 bypass extension to Highway 14 west of Janesville, right through their properties.
"Let's get to the meat. Are you going to build this road somewhere out here?" resident Brendan Kaiser shouted at Westerveld and Ryan Murphy, a consultant working on the plan.
Kaiser owns a 20-acre farm at 4207 W. Highway 14. One proposed route of the bypass extension would shave his property in half.
In one plan, the DOT would relocate part of Highway 14 between Britt and Burdick roads, angling it southeast on property lines to Highway 11. The other plan would relocate Highway 14 east of Burdick Road, routing it south to Highway 11.
Murphy, a project engineer with Milwaukee firm Oneida Total Integrated Enterprises, affirmed Thursday that both plans could serve partly as a traffic detour during the Interstate 90/39 expansion.
"I think it (the interstate project) draws need of accelerated study," Murphy said.
Both options would be two-lane highways, but the state would acquire enough land for possible lane expansions.
Roger Anderson, who lives at 4109 W. County A, said the bypass plan could put a highway through his home. He urged officials to toss out the plan.
"I don't really feel like giving up my home so some guy from Minnesota can drive down my lane," Anderson said. "He can find his own detour."
There are other, overriding needs for a Highway 14 connection to the Highway 11 bypass, Murphy said. Traffic counts support a Highway 14 connection to the Highway 11 bypass. Studies for the plan, completed in 2002, show possible costs of about $22 million.
Murphy said the new highway would ease traffic congestion the DOT has identified on Highway 51 in downtown Janesville and along Highway 14, which he said has traffic crash rates four or five times greater than state averages.
A 2010 DOT traffic map shows the downtown portion of Highway 51 gets about 10,300 vehicles per day. It shows the stretch of Highway 14 between Highway 51 and I-90/39 gets 16,300 vehicles a day.
The study does not indicate how much of that traffic is local, commuter or through traffic.
The DOT is considering other options to improve the Highway 11/14 corridor that wouldn't involve extending the Highway 11 bypass. One plan includes adding lanes to Highway 14. The DOT also could opt to do nothing or to improve intersections and signals along the corridor.
Kaiser argued the state should focus on a plan to expand Highway 14, where traffic would funnel past existing commerce, not fertile farmland.
One man wondered about his property values if there was a highway a few hundred yards from his house.
Mary Heiser, a real estate negotiator with the DOT acknowledged there could be an effect for some.
"It changes what you've got," she said.
Some landowners with property near the proposed highways are concerned the state would buy their property at fire sale prices. Heiser said the state would give fair compensation for their property based on a maximum of two appraisals, which the DOT would pay for.
The DOT plans public hearings this summer on the possible bypass extension.