State 23 four-lane project remains delayed - unfortunately

AND SO WE CONTINUE to wait. Federal Judge Lynn Adelman earlier this month turned down a request from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation that he allow the expansion of State 23 between Plymouth and Fond du Lac to four lanes to move ahead.

Adelman issued an injunction in 2014 halting the long-awaited project – as bulldozers were poised to begin the work – in response to a suit brought by the environmental group 1000 Friends of Wisconsin.

Adelman declined then to make it a permanent injunction, as the 1000 Friends had requested, but did direct the DOT to submit new traffic projection analysis data to justify the project.

That data was submitted last December but it apparently did not sway the judge.

And as a result, area residents, business and industry continue to wait, as they have for nearly two decades, for the needed project to be completed.

There is no doubt that four lanes to Fond du Lac is needed.

It connects Sheboygan County to Fond du Lac, the Fox Cities, Madison and may other points directly west. Making it four lanes all the way to Fond du Lac will make a quicker and easier connection to all those places and more, allowing business to go to and from them and bring tourists and visitors from them to Sheboygan County – all of which is good for our local economy.

Sheboygan and Fond du Lac county industries send trucks full of their products to the rest of the state and the nation over that narrow, twisting stretch of two-lane highway.

Visitors to major events – like Road America and major golf tournaments – and tourist attractions in both counties have to reach their destination over that narrow, twisting stretch of two-lane highway.

The economic strength of both counties relies on the lifeline that is State 23 and the expansion to four lanes would only boost the vitality of all who depend on that lifeline.

1000 Friends contends – and Adelman appears to agree – that DOT analysis does not take into account declining rates of local population growth in the areas served by the highway.

If that is true or not, it fails to take into account the major reasons for expansion of State 23 – safe transportation for increasing visitors coming to Fond du Lac and Sheboygan counties and for increased products being produced by local industries in those counties.

1000 Friends has been a long-time intractable foe of the expansion project. The narrow interests of this small group of largely outsiders has too long thwarted the genuine needs and wishes of the majority of residents of Fond du Lac and Sheboygan counties.

The group has practiced its own form of disingenuousness in pushing its agenda.

They have contended that “a wider highway is not a safer highway,” stating that a wider State 23 would lead to higher speeds and more severe crashes.

That flies directly in the face of studies, including research by the Transportation Operations and Safety Lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison which showed that on 12 Wisconsin highways that were expanded from two to four lanes, crashes were reduced.

That’s the kind of information judges should be relying on to determine the fate of the State 23 expansion projects, just as data on tourism, visitor, business and industrial use of State 23 should weigh more heavily than local population growth estimates.

We have waited nearly two decades for completion of a four-lane highway between Plymouth and Fond du Lac and that wait should end sooner rather than later.

State and federal officials should appeal Judge Adelman’s decision and hope that a higher court will see the entire picture and affirm the need for a wider, safer, more efficient State 23 from Plymouth to Fond du Lac.

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