Coming up with best answers for 23 not easy

FOR LOCAL OFFICIALS AT least, it seems the J in J-turns stands for “junk,” as in
“junk the whole idea.”
The Public Works and Utilities Committee of the Plymouth City Council was latest to
add to that chorus of opposition, reaching a consensus last week that the city should
continue to oppose the J-turn proposal for State 23 north of the city at its intersections
with Pleasant View Road, Highland Avenue and Fairview Drive.
The state Department of Transportation wants to close those intersections as part of the
process of upgrading State 23 to freeway status.
The J-turn would eliminate crossing State 23 on County O, County E and Pleasant View
Road. Northbound traffic on those roads wishing to go west on State 23 would – if J-turns
are installed – merge into eastbound traffic on State 23 then be required to move into the
left lane with 1,200 to 1,600 feet before entering a separate turn lane and executing a Uturn (with a merging lane) into westbound State 23.
It's a difficult concept for many to get their arms around, the idea of turning right to
eventually go left and having to get across two lanes to get to where you're going.
Admittedly, it's a new driving maneuver that many would have to learn and, let's face it,
when it comes to driving habits, a great number of people are resistant to change and
reluctant to learn new habits and practices. The roundabout intersection stands as a prime
example of that.
But J-turns have been installed in many other states and even elsewhere in Wisconsin,
and they have been proven to reduce accidents by eliminating the dangerous task of
crossing up to four lanes of highway-speed traffic – which has often led to fatal accidents
here and elsewhere.
Some are still pushing for an interchange at County E and State 23, but traffic patterns
and cost make that a virtual impossibility. Some local unit of government would have to
bear a major portion of the cost of an interchange – in the millions of dollars – to make it
affordable to the state. Neither the city, town or county have that kind of money to spare –
and there is not enough commercial or other development in close proximity to the
intersection to warrant an interchange.
The DOT's other alternative is to allow right-turn-only onto State 23, which would still
leave drivers going north-to-west or south-to-east onto State 23 to find their own way, via
State 57, State 67, County C or other back roads.
The committee also made it clear that any change to the State 23 intersections should be
concurrent with significant progress on a frontage road/bypass south of State 23 –
extending Kiley Way to the west, with the state bearing a larger share of engineering,
planning and land acquisition costs as it does elsewhere along State 23.
That seems a reasonable request for the necessary modifications to State 23 that will
make it a safer, less deadly road for the increasing through traffic it bears.
But local officials would perhaps be wise to keep a more open mind toward the J-turn
concept as possibly the best compromise between safety along State 23 and the greatest
access possible for traffic coming onto State 23 from the north and south.

At issue: J-turns
Bottom line: Keep an open mind

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