State 23 plan promises to bring changes down the road

IT MAY BECOME MORE of a challenge to get to and from the city of Plymouth from State 23 in the future.

The state Department of Transportation is moving forward with plans to upgrade State 23 between State 57 and State 67 north of the city to freeway status.

Department officials met recently with local elected officials to present their final proposal for that project, including permanently closing the intersections with Pleasant View Road, County E (Highland Avenue) and County O (Fairview Drive) and extending the Kiley Way frontage road west to Fairview.

The DOT wants to officially map that portion of the project. That would make the plan for the frontage road and the intersection closures – including eventual construction of an overpass for State 23 over County E – official. The DOT says the plan will maintain emergency response and agricultural access across the new State 23 freeway.

The DOT plans a public involvement meeting on the plan sometime this summer and a public hearing next winter.

There will undoubtedly be a lot of comment on the plans at both of those meetings.

What the meetings will not address is the still-contentious issue of a State 23 frontage road west of County O. The DOT continues to champion a route through the River Heights subdivision, utilizing an existing bridge over the Mullet River.

While the City Council reluctantly signed off on that plan with reservations, the Town Board has consistently refused to endorse it in the light of widespread and vocal opposition from subdivision and other town residents.

The plan that the DOT will attempt to move forward this year is still years away from becoming reality – likely at least a decade or more in the future.

It is part of the long-range plan to make State 23 a freeway from Sheboygan to Fond du Lac as part of the state’s necessary road backbone.

If it is finally implemented, it will certainly have an impact on the travel patterns and driving of local residents.

Drivers are not accustomed to State 23 being a barrier to northsouth traffic on town and county roads but it is going to happen eventually.

The three intersections between State 57 and State 67 were converted to right-in/right-out intersections two years ago, which impacted traffic flow north and south across State 23.

Local drivers and residents have become accustomed, for the most part, to those changes and adjusted their habits accordingly – as they have in the past for the construction of roundabouts at various intersections and when State 23 was originally routed to bypass downtown Plymouth many years ago.

The intersection changes have made a demonstrable impact on the safety of State 23 in that stretch – with no severe crashes at any of the three intersections in the two years since as opposed to an average of more than 4 severe crashes a year across the three former complete intersections over the previous 14 years.

The expectation is that converting State 23 to full freeway status north of the city will make the highway even safer while making it more efficient for moving goods and bringing visitors.

It will just mean another adjustment for local drivers.

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