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Mequon council skeptical of DOT's plan to expand Highway 167

Officials do not see need for expansion

Nov. 16, 2012

Mequon - Common Council members and Mayor Curt Gielow are critical of a Wisconsin Department of Transportation study which could culminate in the expansion of Highway 167 (Mequon Road) from Pilgrim Road in Germantown to Wauwatosa Road in Mequon.

The study, as presented by DOT staff to the Common Council on Tuesday, assumes traffic growth along the Highway 167 corridor, projects increased traffic volumes in 2020 and 2040, and proposes expanding to a four-lane divided highway. The study also includes an upcoming analysis of signals and roundabouts at all major intersections along the corridor.

DOT Project Manager Vida Shaffer told the council she expects added traffic to necessitate the expansion in about 15 years, and the DOT wants a plan in place for when that happens.

Mayor Gielow and council members raised a number of questions and criticisms of the plan, chief among them a doubt of the DOT's assumption of a 1.1 percent annual growth rate along the corridor despite a lack of historical growth.

"When (traffic volume) has been flat for the last 26 years, why would it take off?" Gielow said. "We are a non-growing, aging community, and yet you suggest we need to accommodate for much more traffic. It doesn't compute to me."

Shaffer said it's only a matter of time until intersections along the corridor become overloaded, causing extensive backups and potentially accidents.

"It's inevitable that these intersections will fail," she told the council. "If it appears that it will hurt (property owners along the corridor) today, it will hurt them more tomorrow if there's a lack of planning."

Several aldermen pointed out that the study fails to take into account Mequon's demographics, which point to a reduction in traffic over time as residents age and decreased kindergarten enrollment results in fewer young people on the road.

"I'll be interested to see (traffic volumes over time)," Alderman John Wirth said, "because I just don't believe you."

Council members also questioned the potential development growth factored into the DOT projections, pointing out that the area is comprised of larger lots and therefore a non-dense population.

"We don't expect this city to grow beyond 30,000 people," Gielow said. "We've zoned it accordingly."

Perhaps most importantly, they expressed the desire to preserve Mequon's rural feel, which they said could be compromised by an expanded highway. Though the council was unsupportive of the expansion, they preferred the "rural" divided highway option with a ditch and sidewalk 27 feet off the road over the "urban" style highway without a ditch and a sidewalk 7 feet off the road.

Shaffer insisted the construction of an expanded highway is dependent on observable increases in traffic, despite the council's repeatedly voiced suspicions of a heavy-handed DOT.

"We're not going to build the highway until the traffic reaches that threshold," she said, adding later: "You'll feel the congestion and safety issues long before we build it."

The DOT will hold another public information meeting about the study in the coming months.

MORE INFORMATION

A detailed summary of the Highway 167 corridor study is available on the DOT website at:

dot.wisconsin.gov/projects/seregion/167/index.htm

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