Several years ago, the Wisconsin Dept. of Transportation proposed constructing new Interstate-type roads (the “Interceptor Proposals”) to divert some traffic from the existing Interstate corridor. The scale of these ill-conceived new highways would have had devastating impacts on the villages of Windsor and DeForest and Town of Bristol. This idea started with the DOT proposing options for replacing the 60 year-old Wisconsin River Interstate bridges, which morphed into the vastly larger plan to construct all-new Interstate connecting routes through our communities.
If constructed, those highways would have destroyed thousands of acres of rich farmland which Windsor had worked for decades to safeguard and would have created serious transportation access problems for the Village of DeForest and area municipalities. The irony was not missed that DOT proposed to devastate the very Windsor farmland preservation district which the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture had designated as some of the most important farmland in the state.
Those ill-conceived proposals collapsed under the weight of intense citizen and municipal opposition, defective DOT meeting notices, and the revelation of serious DOT budgetary problems.
DOT is again examining options for replacing the Wisconsin River Interstate bridges, which was the impetus for the earlier controversy. At a recent standing room only informational meeting at Poynette High School, I asked DOT officials whether proposals now being considered might revive the earlier highway Interceptor projects. DOT officials stated that no such project is under consideration at this time, that the focus is only on replacing the aging bridges.
That is good news and a much more sensible approach by DOT. However, based on past experience, citizens should stay vigilant regarding any future project changes. So far, DOT is considering a responsible plan of just replacing the Interstate bridges and is not proposing an additional highway network.
The effort to protect area farmland and open space is never done – these are the very things which enhance our area’s quality of life and provide important economic impacts. Unfortunately, there will always be some who see these assets as “just cornfields” and will seek to permanently convert such lands to non-agricultural uses.