Janesville Town Board to hold hearing on 'racetrack' road
TOWN OF JANESVILLE — Elmer Brandt said he puts his life on the line every time he crosses North Hackbarth Road to get his mail.
Brandt lives in one of three houses along a 350-yard stretch of Hackbarth Road between County E and Highway 14 in the town of Janesville.
To the north, Hackbarth intersects Highway 14 at the Redwood Motel and newly constructed Fox Den Store-It.
To the south, Hackbarth intersects County E.
It's that southern intersection that Brandt and others believe is a safety hazard.
The Janesville Town Board will hold a public hearing Thursday to discuss possible alterations to North Hackbarth Road, including its closure at County E.
“I have a heck of a time getting to my mailbox,” said Brandt, who lives in the first house after the intersection. “I can start crossing the road to the mailbox, and people come around that blind curve, which is banked like a racetrack, and I'm caught in the middle of the road.
“You don't know which way to go.”
The northern segment of Hackbarth is a popular shortcut between County E and Highway 14, primarily for motorists coming from or going to Highway 14.
The problem for Brandt and his neighbors primarily rests with motorists traveling north on County E who use the Hackbarth Road shortcut.
A recent town traffic count on County E showed that of the 2,700 vehicles that travel north on County E each day, about 2,000 of them turn onto Hackbarth Road. The other 700 continue north on County E to its intersection with Highway 14.
The County E speed limit at the Hackbarth Road intersection is 55 mph. On Hackbarth, it's 35 mph, a limit few drivers hit after making the turn onto Hackbarth, Brandt said.
“Most of them come around that blind turn and they're going 45 or 50 mph,” he said.
Town board Chairman Ed Marshall said the town has struggled with a solution to the problem.
One option, he said, would be to create a 90-degree right-hand turn off County E to Hackbarth to slow traffic, but building a new road brings a challenging set of requirements and costs, he said.
Another option would be to further reduce the speed limits on County E and Hackbarth, but that would only work if motorists routinely respected speed limits, he said.
A final option—the one getting the most attention—is the closure of Hackbarth at County E. From the north and Highway 14, Hackbarth would end in a T-shaped turnaround that would accommodate school busses and snow plows.
“I've heard that there might be some opposition to that,” Marshall said.
An email flyer obtained by The Gazette encourages people to attend Thursday's public hearing and voice opposition to the closure of Hackbarth Road.
Such a closure to a road used by hundreds of township residents each day would cost thousands of dollars, the flyer says.
In addition, the flyer continues, a closure would create a safety hazard for truck and trailer traffic out of the Fox Den storage business. Those vehicles would be forced to run left onto a busy Highway 14, then immediately slow and turn left again onto County E to access Janesville's west side.
For his part, Brandt just wants to see slower traffic on Hackbarth Road.
“It's like living in hell,” said Brandt, who has lost three mailboxes, has had his vehicle bumped after pulling out from his driveway and has witnessed one serious accident in the nine years he's lived on Hackbarth.
“To live here just around this blind curve, you just don't stand a chance.”