Planning down the road is the right thing to do

ONE OF THE RULES of safe driving is to keep a watch far down the road to be ready for any upcoming dangers or concerns.

That rule applies to highway planning as well, it seems, as was shown again last week.

In Elkhart Lake, village officials committed to their portion of a reconstruction project on State 67/Lincoln Avenue that is still two to four years in the future.

The state Department of Transportation plans to rebuild State 67 through the village, as well as portions to the north and south of the village. In the village, the DOT will only pay for work on the driving lanes of the highway; the cost of any repaving of the parking lanes on either side of the road in the village will have to be borne by the village, which the Village Board agreed to do.

Meanwhile, a public involvement meeting is scheduled for Thursday in Cedar Grove to seek public input on two DOT road projects in that area that are scheduled for three years in the future.

That project will reconstruct Interstate 43 from the south county line through the town of Holland north to Wilson-Lima Road in the town of Wilson – a little more than six miles of work – and reconstruct State 32 from I-43 west to its intersection with County D in downtown Cedar Grove.

Given the uncertainty and dispute over highway funding at the state level, it may seem that such long-range plans are much less firm than the concrete that will be laid down as part of the projects. While that may be true – in Elkhart Lake, for instance, DOT officials say the project could be done in 2019 but village officials are figuring it will be more like 2021 – it still is prudent to plan that far ahead to allow for proper budgeting and to gain public input on how the final plan should look.

As debate looms in Madison over how to fund the growing need for maintaining, upgrading and expanding the state’s road system, there is also increased scrutiny and criticism of the DOT, including how it forecasts project costs and some of the features that it advocates in many of its projects, such as roundabouts.

Those issues are important and it can only be hoped that some common ground or a solution will be found on all of them.

But most importantly, there needs to be agreement that road projects are vital to local economies, that they require public money and proper funding mechanisms need to be agreed on to keep up with and even ahead of the needed work.

Of course, one eagerly-awaited and widely-supported needed road project in our area – the widening of State 23 to four lanes from Plymouth to Fond du Lac – remains in legal limbo as a final ruling is awaited from a federal judge in Milwaukee on an attempt to block the project, which has meant a temporary injunction stopping work until a final ruling is issued.

Even if, and when, such a ruling comes from Judge Lynn Adelman, there is likely to be an appeal of that decision from whatever side loses the case, which will drag the project out even longer – farther into the future than most of us want to see.

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Warren Luedke

Sheboygan County Economic Development