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Mequon Common Council critical of DOT projects

Dec. 11, 2013

Mequon — City officials were again critical of a pair of far-off state Department of Transportation projects, a potential expansion of Mequon Road and an expanded Port Washington Road freeway interchange, both of which the DOT has advocated.

As was the case when the Common Council heard from the DOT last year, officials said Mequon would not benefit from a Mequon Road expansion. They said the city would only suffer from the increase in traffic as more commuters would use Mequon Road to get to Interstate 43 or U.S. Hwy 45.

"We're struggling as it is with the roads, on maintaining the roads at a quality level that makes them safe to drive on," Alderman John Hawkins said. "To add more lanes to the city just doesn't make sense to me."

Aldermen were similarly critical of the DOT's plan to rebuild the Port Washington Road I-43 exit into a full, four-way interchange. At Tuesday's meeting the council passed a resolution stating the city's opposition to the expansion and desire to retain a partial interchange as it is today.

The council was critical of the federal government, which they say is threatening to withhold funding on the project unless the interchange is expanded in the DOT's I-43 expansion project, which is currently in planning stages and tentatively slated for 2019 and beyond.

"What the federal government is doing here is trying to ramrod us into accepting a full intersection in a place where it doesn't fit," Alderman Andrew Nerbun said. "A partial interchange is perfect for what we need. This resolution just enforces it."

Short-cutting

Alderwoman Pam Adams stressed that the Port Washington Road interchange expansion would affect traffic patterns and cause drivers to shortcut through nearby residential areas.

"This is going to directly affect both districts eight and seven, because it will cause people to shortcut through neighborhoods," Adams said. "There will be a lot of short-cutting, and it's an overbuilt interchange."

Mayor Dan Abendroth added that the interchange expansion was not Mequon's idea.

"The revision to this existing interchange is caused by the DOT's expansion project," Abendroth said. "We don't need it."

Railing on roundabouts

The potential Mequon Road expansion is currently nothing more than a study and does not have a clear construction timeline. While the council was unanimous in its opposition to the project, aldermen were split on a particular point, the potential inclusion of a roundabout at the intersection of Mequon and Wauwatosa roads.

The DOT's design last year included the roundabout, but the current version now has a four-way intersection there instead. Public Works Director Kristen Lundeen said the DOT scrapped the idea because three-lane roundabouts don't have a free flow of traffic and don't necessarily reduce accidents.

However, business owners last year, including the owner of the incoming Outpost Foods, favored the roundabout because left turn lanes at four-way stops reduce access to their properties.

Nerbun commented that the business access needs to factor into the DOT's planning at that intersection.

"They darn better make sure they don't destroy someone's business by limiting access," Nerbun said. "I want them to be keenly aware that we'll be watching it. I don't want any business to go under because of something the state did with the road."

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