State 23 plans — all of them — need to move forward

IT’S ALMOST BECOMING AN unfortunate chicken-or-egg question. That is, what will come first – the completion of the four-lane State 23 from Plymouth to Fond du Lac or the conversion of State 23 between Sheboygan Falls and Plymouth from an expressway to a freeway.

Representatives of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation were in Plymouth earlier this month to gather comment at a public hearing on the latter proposal – upgrading State 23 from an expressway to a freeway from State 32 to County P.

That plan is a long-range plan, with officials admitting that there is no timetable currently for the work and that it likely will not take place for several decades.

Meanwhile, work on the four lanes from Plymouth to Fond du Lac should have been well underway already, but the long-needed and necessary project has been delayed in the courts.

A 2014 injunction issued by Federal Judge Lynn Adelman at the request of the group 1000 Friends of Wisconsin halting the long-awaited project still remains in place, long after the work was set to begin. A final resolution is still awaited.

It should not have taken this long for the work to begin on that project and it is to be hoped that it will begin long before plans for the freeway from Falls to Plymouth gets off the drawing board and into construction – although for many it might seem that such an eventuality is moving closer to reality.

As has been stated before in this space, the expansion of State 23 to four lanes as far as Fond du Lac is long overdue. There is no doubt that four lanes to Fond du Lac is needed – except in the narrow-minded view of a small group of obstructionist, largely outsiders to the area directly affected by this project.

Four lanes to Fond du Lac will make a quicker, easier and – most importantly – safer connection for residents, businesses, industries and visitors in both Sheboygan and Fond du Lac counties to the Fox Cities, Madison and many other points directly west. Some resolution is needed soon so that this vital project – which has been in the works for more than two decades – can finally move forward.

In the meantime, the DOT is ready to map the freeway conversion between Falls and Plymouth.

The plan would close all at-grade crossings on that stretch of highway and leave only interchanges at County C, State 67, State 57 and County TT (which will be relocated to the west to accommodate the new interchange).

That will create a number of disruptions with the closing of intersections with State 23 at County O (Fairview Drive), County E (Highland Avenue), Pleasantview Road, Willow Road, County M, Hillside Road and Sunset Road.

Today, those closings might appear to engender traffic and congestion concerns on city streets in Plymouth and county and town roads elsewhere along the route, especially for large events like the County Fair.

But the key thing to remember is that the planned conversion won’t likely take place for another 20 years or so. Many things could and will change by then that will make the concerns of today moot or pointless. That’s why the plan is made, but not cast in concrete.

Meanwhile, we can only hope that when and if the freeway conversion from Falls to Plymouth finally takes place, it’s not a freeway leading to the twisting, unsafe, two-lane bottleneck from Plymouth to Fond du Lac that we have now.

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