After a crash at Highway 12 and Walworth Avenue in Whitewater killed two girls and sent three others to the hospital, the UW-Whitewater Police Department posted on Facebook asking the public to avoid the area.
Then—only eight days later—they shared that post. The message was essentially the same, after all.
“Sad to be posting this again. But, please avoid the area and let law enforcement do their job.”
There was another crash at the same intersection. While there were no reported fatalities like with the Aug. 1 crash, the collision Aug. 9 still sent two people to the hospital.
Two people were taken to a hospital after a crash on Highway 12 in Whitewater that occurred about a week after a different crash near the same intersection killed two young girls.
The state Department of Transportation has plans to add left-turn signals—a green, yellow, flashing yellow and red arrow. Whitewater City Manager Cameron Clapper said he thought the plans were to start in June 2020 after school lets out.
But to community members, that’s not soon enough.
Whitewater officials are meeting with state Rep. Don Vruwink, D-Milton, and representatives from the state Department of Transportation on Tuesday to discuss the intersection. The city council is also set to discuss the topic at its meeting Tuesday night.
Some hope sharing their concerns will expedite the process. The Whitewater Fire Department posted on Facebook on Friday asking the public to voice their opinions to Vruwink’s office.
“Many of us feel that this cannot wait until spring,” the post states. “We are hopeful that other measures may be taken in the interim, or the project timeline increased to prevent further incidents.”
Mike Ciardo retired in 2014 as a sergeant from the Whitewater Police Department, and he also studied at UW-Whitewater.
His police work included the crash investigation team.
A 7-year-old girl and a 14-year-old girl died in a crash on Highway 12 in Whitewater on Thursday night, the Walworth County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release Friday.
When he hears about another crash at the intersection, such as when the two girls died, he said, “It just tears my heart out.” He said that area has caused problems since the bypass was built in 2006.
Part of the problem, he said, is that cars turning left see a green light and infer they have the right of way. Flashing yellow lights are a “simple” solution that can help this, but he questioned why the state is pushing the project off until next year.
“In my opinion, it’s long overdue,” Ciardo said. “We’ve had too many serious accidents at that intersection, and the time is really now to at least do an immediate fix.”
Clapper, the city manager, knows this. In an interview last week, he said residents have been bringing the topic up to him—especially since the recent crashes.
“People that might have otherwise stayed silent have been much more vocal,” he said. “It’s really appreciated that people have come out and shown support for some action needing to be taken.”
But, ultimately, he said the state will decide what is done and when.
The project is expected to take about 40 days. Clapper said plans call for lanes to be closed for five to seven days during that time.
He said he believes the project will either pause or be completed to make the roads open for Fourth of July travel.
Clapper shared the project plans at the most recent city council meeting. Referencing the Aug. 1 double fatal crash, he called it a “significant and tragic event” that was “at the forefront” of the minds of city staff.
And that meeting was Aug. 6—three days before another crash sent two to the hospital.
“The good news is it’s coming,” he said of the state project. “But not soon enough.”