DOT suggests U-turn
Highway change will be bad for business, owners say


Dec. 29, 2014

HARTFORD — Details in the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s proposed 2015 reconstruction of a portion of Highway 60 has business owners worried. The department’s suggestion of drivers making a U-turn to get back to the businesses also has at least one local leader worried.

The project, which extends from Main Street to Kettle Moraine Road, is expected to begin in July. The DOT hosted a meeting Dec. 16 where it unveiled details.

Dan Mueller owns a George Webb franchise at 1481 E. Sumner St. in the Sumner Street Plaza. Russ Schroeder owns the plaza and a Subway there. They’re concerned the DOT’s plan includes replacing a center turn lane in front of their businesses with a raised concrete median.

“That means no one heading west will be able to make a left turn off the highway into my business,” Mueller said. “It will prevent potential customers from to turning into my lot.”

Schroeder agrees.

“Of course it’s going to dramatically affect all of the businesses in my plaza,” Schroeder said. “If it’s more difficult to get to a specific place, potential customers will just keep driving to another business that’s easier to reach.”

DOT spokesman Brian DeNeve said drivers only have to “drive an additional 300 feet past the driveway to make a U-turn and go back to enter the (plaza’s) driveway.”

“We feel patrons will still make that necessary (U-)turn to enter the businesses,” he said.

DeNeve said improving safety is one of the major reasons for changes.

“In 2007-11, there were 24 crashes in the westbound lanes of Highway 60 from Highway K to about 700 feet east of the intersection (approximately the Taco Bell driveway on the north side of Highway 60) and 10 crashes in the eastbound lanes,” DeNeve said. “We don’t have information on each crash to say this configuration is causing all these collisions; however, this is a significant number.”

Mueller said a raised median will make it more difficult for customers to reach his business and it will be more dangerous.

“We’ve all had it drummed into us making U-turns is illegal — unsafe,” Mueller said. “People won’t make the U-turn no matter what the DOT says.”

DeNeve said state traffic laws were changed over the last few years to allow U-turns. Municipalities however can still outlaw U-turns in their jurisdiction which Hartford has done. Information from Hartford Police Chief David Groves, shows it’s illegal to make a U-turn at the intersection suggested by the DOT — Highway 60 at Lone Oak Lane.

“Making a U-turn there is impossible and the city says it’s illegal,” Mueller said. “The DOT just doesn’t understand what this can do to us.”

Mueller said he had owned a George Webb franchise in Watertown and highway access issues there contributed to its closing.

“I have 20-25 employees and Subway and Pizza Hut may have about the same,” Mueller said. “This is really detrimental to being able to keep those jobs.”

Schroeder said he is willing to give the DOT the benefit of the doubt if it continues to discuss the matter.

“They also agreed to extend the public comment period until Jan. 10,” Schroeder said. “I’m concerned though because I talked to them a number of times before the public meeting and they never said a raised median was in the project. They’ve not been straightforward. Their attitude is they’re just going to do it.”

Common Council President Tim Michalak said he was stunned when Mueller told him what the DOT was proposing. He told DOT officials the proposal wasn’t properly thought out. Schroeder is willing to adjust where vehicles enter his parking lot.

“They have no concept of what these things can do to small businesses,” Michalak said. “It’s ridiculous.”

“I don’t understand how anyone in their right mind can claim reducing access to a business isn’t going to cause a significant drop in their customers,” Mueller said.

The DOT said the $4 million project will include repair and resurfacing about 2.8 miles of the highway. The construction zone will end about 1,100 feet west of Kettle Moraine Road. Other improvements include: A right turn lane for westbound Highway 60 traffic at Grand Avenue and realignment-lengthening of left turn lanes on the highway at Highway K.

The DOT could not be reached for additional comments Tuesday.