Plymouth to Falls freeway plan mapped

by Emmitt B. Feldner
of The Review staff


DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION Project Manager Natasha Gwidt (left, below) outlined the plans for converting State 23 between Plymouth and Sheboygan Falls from an expressway to a freeway, then answered questions from attendees (above) at a DOT public information meeting Monday in the Riverview Middle School cafeteria. — Review photos by Emmitt B. Feldner DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION Project Manager Natasha Gwidt (left, below) outlined the plans for converting State 23 between Plymouth and Sheboygan Falls from an expressway to a freeway, then answered questions from attendees (above) at a DOT public information meeting Monday in the Riverview Middle School cafeteria. — Review photos by Emmitt B. Feldner PLYMOUTH – What they saw of the plan to upgrade State 23 to freeway status seemed to be well received by those attending a public information meeting at Riverview School Monday.

Conspicuous by their absence, though, were two parts of the State 23 puzzle – one still held up in litigation, the other still a point of contention between the Department of Transportation and local governments and residents.

More than 70 people attended the session hosted by the DOT, which focused on the section of State 23 between County P west of Plymouth and State 32 north of Sheboygan Falls.

“I was surprised at all the positive comments today,” DOT Northeast Region Communication Manager Mark Kantola commented after the meeting. “The majority of people I talked to were in favor of (the plan).”

DOT Project Manager Natasha Gwidt began by noting that the meeting would not address the proposed expansion of State 23 to a four-lane divided highway from Plymouth to Fond du Lac.

That project has been delayed by U.S. Eastern District Court Judge Lynn Adelman, who issued an injunction in a suit brought by the environmental group 1,000 Friends of Wisconsin to block that project.

The DOT’s next step for the freeway corridor proposal from Sheboygan Falls to Plymouth is to map the potential route in order to preserve the corridor, Gwidt explained.

“There are no project plans and no funding,” for the conversion, which is probably 20 years out, Gwidt added.

Currently, the four-lane section of State 23 is an expressway, not a freeway, Gwidt told the audience.

An expressway allows at-grade intersections and crossings of the highway. As a freeway, access would be allowed only at controlled interchanges.

For safety reasons, those interchanges can be no closer than two miles apart in rural areas and one mile in urban areas, according to Gwidt.

The plan calls for interchanges at County C, State 67, State 57 and County TT. There would be overpasses at County E, Willow Road and County M. All other crossings and intersections would be closed.

The plan calls for a diamond interchange with County TT that would be located west of the current intersection with County TT.

Gwidt explained that the interchange – and County TT – would have to be located there in order to avoid putting ramps over the Sheboygan River.

What would not be part of the map created by the current process would be the route for a frontage road between County OJ and State 67, either in the city or the town of Plymouth.

The DOT and local governments have agreed to extending Kiley Way in the city of Plymouth west to Fairview Drive/County OJ, which is part of the proposed map, but a route beyond that has been in dispute between state and local officials.

One concern affecting that route, Gwidt said, is the issue of crossing the Mullet River.

“Talking to our partners,” Gwidt said, referring specifically to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the state Department of Natural Resources, “they do not want another bridge over the Mullet River.”

But an alternative floated by the DOT to route the frontage road north on OJ then west via an extension of Terrace Avenue through the River Heights subdivision has been strongly opposed by residents of the subdivision and the Plymouth Town Board.

“We’re going to move forward on the common areas we all agree on,” Gwidt stated.

Many in the audience were looking for specifics about some of the proposals, such as whether new intersections off State 23 created by road and crossing closings would be controlled by stop lights or signs, or how much land would be taken for construction of connector roads and cul-de-sacs created under the plan.

Gwidt emphasized that the plan is still in its initial stages and such issues would be finalized later when the project is designated for construction.

She did note that safety considerations will be one of the factors in determining a schedule for implementing the plans, along with funding.

Safety improvements made recently along State 23 – installing right-turn only intersections between State 57 and State 67 north of Plymouth and a J-turn at State 23 and County M – have made a significant impact on crash rates. There have been no serious accidents at any of those intersections since then, Gwidt said.

She contrasted that with the existing at-grade intersection of State 23 and County TT. There have been a number of serious accidents there in the past few years, Gwidt said, including a fatality in a two-car crash just last week.

The next step for the State 23 freeway corridor plan, Kantola said, will be a public hearing, probably in the fall.

“We want to get the public to talk about the project to us, whether it’s positive or negative,” Kantola stated. “We try to work with everybody.”


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