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East Troy travel center fighting roundabout

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STANLEY B. MILAM
April 25, 2012
— Linda Kaplan has fought off climbing fuel prices, increasing business costs and a national recession. Now she's battling the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

Kaplan is president of East Troy Point, a busy travel center on Highway 20 just off Interstate 43. The center, where more than 50 people work, features a Shell gas station, a McDonald's restaurant and a convenience store. In addition to fast, friendly service, her business relies on easy vehicle access to the center.


The DOT is considering modifications to the Highway 20 intersection with County ES, where the center is located.


In addition to doing nothing, three construction options are being considered:


-- Realigning the intersection without changing access points to the center. This option is Kaplan's preference.


-- Building a median that would block access to the center for motorists traveling west on Highway 20 west of the County ES intersection. Kaplan opposes.


-- Installing a roundabout, which Kaplan opposes.


The options will be discussed at a DOT public hearing sometime in June or July.


"For sure, we don't want to see a roundabout," Kaplan said. "I have seen studies that show 2 to 5 percent of motorists will go out of their way to avoid a roundabout. Could that mean that we'll lose 2 to 5 percent of our business? I'm not looking forward to that.


"There are three similar businesses on this corner," she said. "If you don't think a 2 percent decrease in business will impact us, think again."


A roundabout could mean a higher percentage of lost business from truckers, Kaplan said.


"We have a lot of truck traffic off of I-43," she said. "I'm concerned that those truckers will drive right by our exit when they know there's a roundabout waiting for them here."


Kaplan has initiated a grassroots effort to stop a roundabout. She has a display at the center showing the three construction alternatives, articles about roundabouts and a petition opposing a roundabout.


"We have more than 800 signatures on the petition," Kaplan said. "It's my hope that the DOT will recognize that I'm not the only person opposed to a roundabout."


Jon Engerson, a DOT engineer, wrote in an email that the department is investigating the intersection reconstruction based on failing pavement and a high crash rate compared to similar intersections.


"After reviewing the history of police crash reports covering the intersection, it was established that the majority of the crashes were from left turning traffic," Engerson said. "This type of accident can be attributed to poor visibility because of the intersection angle."


Kaplan says she has invested more than $2 million in her business.


"Gas stations are heavily regulated in addition to being tax collectors," she said. "Between state and federal fuel taxes, cigarette and lottery tax collections, East Troy Point collects more than $1.7 million in taxes annually."



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