Time past for resolution of State 23 suit

AREA LEGISLATORS CONTINUE TO press for a conclusion to the legal entanglements that have kept the expansion of State 23 between Plymouth and Fond du Lac on hold for nearly two years now.

U.S. Eastern Court District Judge Lynn Adelman issued a temporary injunction blocking the work in June 2015, just days before work was set to begin on the project.

The injunction came in a lawsuit filed by the environmental group 1000 Friends of Wisconsin, which challenged the data compiled by the state Department of Transportation to support the expansion project, which was first enumerated as a priority project by the DOT in 1999.

There has still been no final ruling from Judge Adelman on the 1000 Friends suit – making the definition of temporary in this case at least two years – and as a result, the 19-mile stretch of State 23 from here to Fond du Lac remains unnecessarily dangerous for drivers.

Responding to two serious, head-on collisions on that stretch of highway in a three-day period earlier this month – resulting in seven people being transported to local hospitals, two with life-threatening injuries – state Sen. Devin LeMahieu, R-Oostburg; Sen. Dan Feyen, R-Fond du Lac; Sen. Duey Strobel, R-Saukville; Rep. Tyler Vorpagel, R-Plymouth; Rep. Terry Katsma, R-Oostburg; and Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt, R-Fond du Lac, wrote Judge Adelman asking him “to prioritize this important case.”

It’s a reasonable request, and one the judge should heed. The stop sign has been up on this project for too long already.

1000 Friends – and their supporters locally – contend that the construction of passing lanes in that stretch of State 23 would be a better alternative, economically and environmentally.

Ironically, with the lawsuit still in process and the temporary injunction still in place, the DOT can not even move forward on a passing-lane alternative even if it were feasible or the right answer – which it is not.

One of the major points of the 1000

Friends lawsuit is that population growth, traffic, safety and other data do not support a four-lane option.

Since Adelman’s initial injunction, job growth in Sheboygan County has outpaced the rest of the state. That has meant new people working in, and driving to and from, the county, as well as greater volumes of raw materials being shipped into the county and finished products being shipped out.

Additionally, tourism continues to grow in areas serviced by State 23, including Elkhart Lake and Plymouth. That brings more people to the area, people who come and go by car, more and more along State 23 – not just to Elkhart Lake and Plymouth but also to Sheboygan Falls, Kohler and Sheboygan.

Passing lanes along the 19-mile stretch of State 23 between Plymouth and Fond du Lac might have been a workable alternative two decades ago, but they are not now.

Traffic along the two-lane stretch of State 23 – a true bottleneck in a transportation system that serves business, industry, tourism and residents in Sheboygan and Fond du Lac counties – is only going to increase in the future.

Putting in passing lanes now would only be a stop-gap measure that would eventually be upgraded to four lanes – a waste of money, time and quite possibly lives in the meantime.

It is past time for Judge Adelman to issue a final ruling and let the process proceed – either with construction or an appeal, whatever the case may be. Further delay only continues and increases the unnecessary danger between Plymouth and Fond du Lac.

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