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Mequon approves deals with state, county in I-43 Interchange at Highland Road

May 21, 2014

Mequon — Mequon city officials have approved a funding agreement that would pave the way for an Interstate 43 interchange at Highland Road.

The Highland Road interchange was proposed as part of the state Department of Transportation's plans for an I-43 expansion, which would happen in five to 10 years. The interchange would meet the growing traffic demands in the area, as well as reroute Concordia University commuters away from the residential neighborhoods along Lake Shore Drive.

The state-municipal agreement for a Highland Road interchange was unanimously approved during a common council meeting last week with provisions that Mequon has authority over local land use and zoning around the area of the Highland Road interchange as well as Port Washington Road north to Pioneer Road. The state-municipal agreement also says Highland Road's character should be preserved by not expanding it to four lanes, not allowing through-truck-traffic, retaining bike lanes and pursuing traffic calming features.

Without an interchange at Highland Road, the DOT would have required major modifications to the intersection of Mequon and Port Washington Roads, including two or three turn lanes in each direction.

The DOT originally told the city it would be required to pay a $7 million contribution to the $18 million interchange, but recently the local share was reduced to $3.5 million. Half of the $3.5 million local share will be paid by Ozaukee County, and the other half will be paid by the city. The city plans to receive additional financial support for its $1.7 million share from Concordia University, Columbia St. Mary's and other organizations that would benefit from the interchange.

The common council also formally approved the funding agreement with Ozaukee County guaranteeing that each party would pay half of the $3.5 million local share. When the city approached the county for funding, it argued that the cost of adding an interchange at Highland Road would be less expensive than making Port Washington Road a four-lane road from Glen Oaks to Pioneer Road. As a result, the city agreed to not ask the county for money to expand that portion of Port Washington Road for at least another 10 years.

As part of its agreement with Ozaukee County, the city also agreed to work with county officials to include a park-and-ride lot within a half-mile of either the Highland Road or Mequon Road interchanges.

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