Voices being raised again for four-lane State 23

TO QUOTE YOGI BERRA, it seems like a case of deja vu all over again. Local units of government are once again adding their voices to those urging the expansion of State 23 from Plymouth to Fond du Lac to four lanes.

Area businesses, industries and citizens are being asked to add their support as well, in written comments to the state Department of Transportation.

It’s all part of an updated Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) the DOT is preparing to support the expansion project.

Work on the long-awaited expansion was set to start just over two years ago – plans were drawn, a schedule was set and equipment was in place ready to roll – when U.S. Eastern Court District Judge Lynn Adelman issued a temporary injunction halting the work.

The injunction came in a lawsuit filed by the environmental group 1000 Friends of Wisconsin seeking to permanently halt the four-lane project.

The injunction is still in place and the update EIS is part of the DOT’s attempt to answer the concerns raised in the federal suit.

The 1000 Friends contend that the four-lane highway is not needed. Any comments from the public supporting that expansion would help to answer that point.

Comments are being sought through Sunday, Nov. 12. They can be submitted online to the DOT at bryan.lipke@dot.wi.gov.

For most of those who live along or near State 23 between Plymouth and Fond du Lac, or who drive it regularly, it would seem like a no-brainer that the expansion to four lanes is needed. The more comments the DOT can receive to support that, the better case they can make for moving forward with the work.

Since the expansion was first proposed nearly a quarter of a century ago, it has earned the support of area legislators from both parties, local government officials and leaders of industry in both Fond du Lac and Sheboygan counties, and countless thousands who drive the highway – be it for work, play or any reason.

The 1000 Friends contend that passing lanes along the 19-mile stretch of highway would be a better alternative, but while that might have been a possible alternative two decades ago, it is not now.

Traffic along the twisting, 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 would only be a stopgap measure that would eventually be upgraded to four lanes – a waste of money, time and quite possibly lives in the meantime.

Finishing the four-lane state 23 west to Fond du Lac would be the final piece of a four-lane network stretching from Milwaukee to Green Bay to Madison and back, serving cities and communities small and large within that area.

Beyond, and more important than, the economic value of a four-lane State 23 is the safety of drivers along the dangerous stretch. There is plenty of statistical and anecdotal evidence of how unsafe the current highway is.

Research by the Transportation Operations and Safety Lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison showed that on 12 Wisconsin highways that were expanded from two to four lanes, crashes were reduced.

All of that combines to create a strong and loud message in support of the four-lane expansion. The more voices that convey that message, it can only be hoped, the sooner we can finally move ahead with the project.

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