TOWN OF CENTER
A plan to resurface Highway 14 between Janesville and Evansville brought about 80 highly concerned people to the Center Town Hall on Wednesday night.
More than one resident asked state Department of Transportation officials whether someone has to die at a rural intersection on the highway before the state does something.
The highway is rutted and pitted in many places, and no one had a problem with the state fixing that in the project set for 2021, but many said the state should do more to make various intersections safer.
Traffic often moves faster than 60 mph, residents of the rural area told officials, and turning onto or off the highway—or just crossing it—is dangerous at times.
“I think people who live in this area—between Janesville and Evansville—are tired of this road,” Mike Malterer told The Gazette. “The road’s worthless right now. It’s dangerous.”
Mike Beggs, who uses the highway to get to Beloit every day, said Highway 14 is “too busy, just a lot of traffic,” and he said the poor surface doesn’t seem to slow people down.
Ellen Punzel was one of many concerned about County H, which crosses the highway at a bend in the road.
The intersection is not lighted, Punzel said, and she’s concerned about teens with little driving experience using the intersection.
Plans call for adding right-turn lanes at County H. Punzel was one of several speakers who didn’t think those lanes would help much.
Some said the wider highway at County H would make it more dangerous to cross the road against the speeding traffic.
Some asked about stoplights at County H, but officials said traffic counts don’t justify that. Punzel suggested a roundabout to slow traffic, which drew a chorus of “No!” from the crowd.
Officials estimate traffic volume will increase from the current 7,000 vehicles per day on the Evansville end of the project and 12,200 on the Janesville end.
Some residents said traffic has gotten worse in the last two years. Punzel said one concern is increasing numbers of semitrailer trucks that have started using County H to get from Highway 11 to Highway 14.
The state considered connecting the Highway 11 bypass south of Janesville northward to Highway 14 about six years ago, but residents in the area objected, and the idea was dropped.
One resident asked how the state will handle the continually deteriorating highway for the more than two years until the project starts in the spring of 2021.
DOT official Karla Knorr said the surface will be monitored and patched as needed, with help from Rock County.
Residents asked if the project could be done sooner, but officials said the land-acquisition process timelines won’t allow it.
Several residents expressed fears of being rear-ended as they try to turn left off the highway. Burdick Road and the turnoffs from the hill just west of the Rock River bridge were noted as particularly troublesome spots.
Plans call for a left-turn lane for eastbound traffic turning onto North River Road, but one resident said that could increase the danger of a rear-end crash there.
The state’s plans call for keeping Highway 14 the same width, except for short segments near some intersections on the 13-mile stretch.
Plans call for grinding down the asphalt surface by 2.5 inches and adding 3.5 inches of new asphalt, officials said.
Much of the work will take place at night because of the highway’s high traffic volumes, officials said. Flaggers will control traffic, and access will be maintained to all residences and farm fields as required by law, officials said.
Minor work on the Rock River Bridge near Janesville will require the highway to be closed for a short time, which will require a detour. A detour also will be needed for a short time when the County H intersection is being rebuilt.