Putting State 23 back on schedule is the right call

STATE GOVERNMENT – SPECIFICALLY, THE Department of Transportation – heard and heeded the voice of the public last week.

Thanks as well to the efforts of local legislators, the DOT reversed itself and moved the completion of four lanes of State 23 from Plymouth to Fond du Lac back to a 2015 start date.

The long-awaited project has gone through many stops and starts since it was first enumerated – listed as a priority – in the 1999 state budget, the result of a bipartisan effort by area legislators at that time.

It was, at one point, supposed to have started this year, but that was pushed back until 2015. Then, earlier this year, the DOT moved it back to 2018, citing a lack of funds.

That news did not sit well with many around here, who have been waiting decades for a four-lane highway all the way to Fond du Lac to reduce bottlenecks and congestion along that route.

It also did not sit well with local legislators – Sen. Joe Leibham, R-Sheboygan; and Rick Gudex, R-Fond du Lac; and Rep. Steve Kestell, R-Elkhart Lake; Dan LeMahieu, R-Cascade; Jeremy Thiesfeldt, R-Fond du Lac; and Michael Endsley, R-Sheboygan – who lobbied the DOT and Secretary Mark Gottlieb to get the State 23 project back on schedule for 2015.

Leibham and Kestell were part of the original bipartisan push to get the project enumerated in 1999, so they knew full well the urgency and support for it in their districts.

They, and the other legislators, heard from their constituents of the desire to see the project completed sooner rather than later, and conveyed that message to Secretary Gottlieb.

The result is that the DOT has found a way to fit the start of the project in its 2015 budget after all.

The legislators deserve credit for listening to the voice of the public and using their influence to negotiate the right outcome.

The outcome was a bit of a compromise, in that the project will now be spread out over four years, instead of the original schedule of three years, and the work will not be completed until 2018.

That could change, of course, for better or for worse, depending on future budgets and funding availability. The project could still be delayed or stretched out if conditions warrant, or could return to the original three-year timetable if the funding should become available.

There is also the need for final approval from the Federal Highway Administration – which will provide some funding which might have been jeopardized by the proposed delay – and a nuisance suit by an environmental group which must be resolved.

But for the time being, the four lanes to Fond du Lac appears to be back on course. And state officials can be sure that, if it should get delayed again for whatever reason, they will hear from the public and elected officials.

At issue:
State 23 back on 2015 schedule
Bottom line:
Public, legislators heeded


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