Mequon reluctantly proceeds with Highland Road interchange design
City commits to spending up to $300,000 on plans
Mequon — On a reluctant, 5-1, vote, the Common Council on Tuesday approved partnering with the state Department of Transportation on preliminary design work for an Interstate-43 interchange at Highland Road.
According to the DOT, Mequon's cost for the design work would not exceed $300,000.
Alderman Dale Mayr was the dissenting vote at the Common Council and previously the Public Works Committee, which had recommended approval to the council.
Mayr, along with several other aldermen, was hesitant to commit the $300,000 to the project because the council has not yet decided whether Mequon is in favor of the interchange, which the DOT has included as part of an I-43 update and expansion project that is still five to 10 years out.
"The amount of dollars is far and beyond what we should commit to something we're not committed to," Mayr said.
However, the DOT is insisting that the city commit to at least the design work now if it even wants to delay the final decision on the interchange until June.
"The state is putting us between a rock and a hard place," Alderman John Hawkins said. "...If we spend (the money) and the interchange isn't built, we're out of the money."
Alderman Andrew Nerbun said that while the arrangement does force the council's hand, the opportunity to study the idea last came around about 25 years ago and, if rejected, probably won't come around again for a similar amount of time.
"I'm going to reluctantly vote for it," Nerbun said. "If we fast forward 20 years from now, we may really regret not taking the opportunity to go down this path."
Mayor Dan Abendroth described the move as "hedging our bets" to buy the city more time to deliberate whether it wants the interchange.
Public Works Director Kristen Lundeen said that if the city decides against the project, it could retain most if not all of the $300,000 if the DOT is notified before beginning the design work. Lundeen said the DOT likely won't begin until after its last round of public meetings on the project, scheduled for late April and early May.
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