Janesville55.2°

Vote could kill highway extension

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Catherine W. Idzerda
September 28, 2012

— Barring miraculous intervention, a proposed extension between County G and Interstate 90/39 is dead.

In an unexpected twist, the Rock County Board of Supervisors voted 14-11 to table a decision on the extension until Feb. 28.

"It would be almost impossible to do the work that is needed to be done in that time frame," said Ben Coopman, Rock County Public Works director.

If the board did approve an extension in February, it would take another four months to get the needed environmental approvals. The design and bidding phase would have to be jammed into the remaining six or seven months, and that is a process that often takes more than a year.

The decision has significant ramifications for the county.

Without the extension, the state will not contribute to the County G improvement project. That project would have added paved shoulders, a strengthened roadbed and turn lanes to County G. Improvements also would have been made to intersection of County G and Townline Road.

The cost of the improvements was expected to be $21.8 million, with $14.7 million of that coming from the state. The city of Beloit would have contributed $717,415 and the county's share would have been $6.4 million.

But it was the extension between the Interstate and County G that the state was most interested in. The road would have provided a secondary route during construction and offered a detour whenever there was a traffic accident or other incident on the Interstate.

Without that extension, the state won't fund the project.

"We probably won't be able to redo County G for years and years," board Chairman Russ Podzilni said after the meeting.

So what happened?

The county presented the public with three options: One that went from County G to Philhower Road and then south to County S; a second, and preferred route that extended Inman Parkway across a field to County S; and a third route that would have involved rebuilding existing streets.

Neither the state nor the city of Beloit was interested in rebuilding existing streets. Advocates for farmland hoped the county would find an alternative to the Inman Parkway plan, which sliced a productive farm field in half. The town of Turtle also didn't like the Inman extension, either.

At Thursday's meeting, several new possibilities were floated.

Extending Gale Street would diminish the effect on farmland but would not be popular with people living on Huebbe Parkway. Another option would have been impractical because a sharp curve would have significantly slowed down truck traffic.

Despite the number of public meetings held on the issue, the amount of information on the county's website and the number of news stories on the topic, some board members felt the process had not been "open."

A move to table approval of the extension until Feb. 28 was made by Ivan Collins and quickly seconded.

The vote passed with four supervisors absent.

"I don't think anyone anticipated that," Podzilni said after the meeting.

It's unclear if the board could bring the issue back before the Feb. 28 date.

Rock County Corporation Counsel Jeff Kuglitsch said he would be looking into the matter of getting the question back on an agenda.



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