TRAFFIC TROUBLES
Mukwonago seeks remedy for vehicle congestion

By Brandon Anderegg - Freeman Staff

Jan. 17, 2018

 A left turn from Highway 83 onto Highway NN on the north side of Mukwonago would take motorists around the village via Holz Parkway, which connects back with Highway 83 on the south side of the village.
Brandon Anderegg/Freeman Staff

MUKWONAGO — Now that plans to alleviate traffic in Mukwonago have become a focus for the Downtown Strategic Plan Steering Committee, how feasible is a Highway 83 reroute, what would it cost and how might a different route affect business in the village?

In December, the Village Board approved the DSPSC’s recommendation to pursue a jurisdictional transfer agreement with the state and county for roads not owned by the village and to pursue diverting “pass thru traffic” to improve pedestrian safety in Mukwonago’s downtown, according to a Dec. 19 Village Board agenda.

Mukwonago’s longtime search for a traffic remedy began almost a decade ago when the state decided widening 83 (Rochester Street) through downtown would decrease the amount of congestion and vehicle collisions in the area, according to former Village President Jerry Gasser.

“The reasoning was that the crash rate through the village was above the state average,” said Gasser.

A Stakeholder’s Advisory Committee composed of village officials and residents concluded a wider 83 would not coincide with how residents envisioned downtown Mukwonago, said Gasser. Part of the reason was because the project would require removing several buildings and businesses to allow two lanes of traffic running north and southbound.

“It would have been a major and dramatic alteration of the village,” said Gasser. “It would have been a detriment to pedestrian traffic due to high volume traffic, especially during peak hours.”

 The alternate route would begin at the intersection of Highway 83 (Rochester Street) and Holz Parkway and traverse to the east along Holz Parkway through the Highway NN and County ES intersection, continuing west along Highway NN and reconnecting at the intersection of Highway NN and Highway 83, according to the 2013 study.
Submitted map

A 2013 feasibility study drafted by SAC and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation found the street widening project would cost $4.7 million, while the reroute cost $1.4 million.

In fact, Village Planner Bruce Kaniewski told The Freeman in July of 2015 that the figure for widening doesn’t consider the financial impact on the face of Mukwonago’s downtown. The project would remove 23 parking spaces and three buildings, restrict 10 driveways and eliminate two and require acquisition of 15 parcels.
 

The reroute

The study indicates that an alternative route around the village is not only feasible, but also viewed as a viable option by the village, county and state, said Gasser.

The reroute would begin at the intersection of Highway 83 (Rochester Street) and Holz Parkway and traverse to the east along Holz Parkway through the Highway NN and County ES intersection, continuing west along Highway NN and reconnecting at the intersection of Highway NN and Highway 83, according to the 2013 study.

While the alternative route is possible, Village Administrator John Weidl estimates that neither a reroute nor widening 83 would occur until the mid-2020s. What makes the process so complicated is there are multiple actors and the reroute would involve a jurisdictional transfer agreement, under which the county or state would relinquish their ownership of a road or a highway to the village, he said.

Furthermore, Weidl said any discussion of an alternative route must include replacing the 50-year old water and sewage pipes under Highway 83, which would be paid for by taxpayers. Weidl said if the village is going to use taxpayer money for infrastructure changes, he’d like the village to own Rochester Street, which is currently owned by the state.

“Because at the same time, if we own it we can make it pedestrian- friendly and make improvements, said Weidl. “Ultimately, we’re going to safeguard the taxpayer’s investment."
 

Traffic means business

With a new route around downtown, several businesses may miss out on customers, depending on how traffic is defined, according to Weidl. He said if the hypothesis holds true that a new route would keep “thru-traffic” out of the village and “destination traffic” in the village, then a reroute would produce a pedestrian-friendly downtown without damaging businesses for Mukwonago.

But, both Weidl and Kaniewski also suggested there are businesses that thrive by being seen by all types of traffic. For example, a business such as Walgreens might advertise a product on sale that would coax a passerby to stop. Or, as Kaniewski mentioned, a person may notice a new business and plan to make a stop on another occasion.

“Businesses like to be seen,” said Kaniewski. “Even if they don’t stop at the time; but they might come back.”