A project long in the works to repave County Highway V in Okee is set to begin next fall. A final public hearing was held last Thursday, Aug. 9, at the Lodi Town Hall, where engineers explained the project.

The project, with a projected cost of $2.3 million, will span from State Highway 113 to Rapp Road, and make the following changes:

  • Construction of a “urban typical section” from the highway to the lake, with an underground storm sewer and an outfall into the lake on the east side of Fitz’s on the Lake restaurant.
  • Realignment of County V at Highway 113 to improve the angle of the intersection
  • Laying sidewalk on the north side of Highway V between Old Sauk Road and Lake Wisconsin, and on the south side between Madeline Summers Park and Lucky’s on the Lake restaurant.
  • Bridge deck replacement on the bridge over the Spring Creek inlet to extend the service life and improve the bridge railings.
  • Reconstruction of the Highway V railroad crossing, including new signals and a gate
  • New signing and pavement marking.

According to a memo handed out at the meeting, the purpose of the project is to address deteriorating pavements, poor roadside drainage, substandard roadside facilities, and the deteriorating bridge deck on the Spring Creek inlet bridge. The project will also provide space for pedestrians and bicyclists to navigate the business district on County V. Lastly, emergency services have reportedly cited concerns about responding to calls during certain times of the week, due to parking along the shoulder.

Five public meetings have been held since the project was first first announced in 2008. The memo states that input from residents, business owners, environmental agencies and other stakeholders have been taken into consideration, and adjustments have been made.

Tad Callahan, who lives in Okee, said he has attended those meetings, and feels his voice hasn’t been heard. “We get lip service (from officials),” he said. “They don’t seem to take any public input into account.”

Callahan characterized the work as “halfway” in nature. “It feels like they’re doing it at 60 percent,” he said. “It’s very shortsighted to start this project.”

Callahan echoed a concern raised repeatedly throughout the meeting, which called for the bridge to be raised to allow for easier passage for boats.

The project is planned to begin after July 4, 2019 and be completed by late October of 2019. Some preliminary work, like tree removal, might be done beforehand, as well.

Highway Commissioner Chris Hardy asked residents to leave stakes on their property so planning and mapping can continue.

The next step is dealing with property owners on an individual basis to obtain temporary limited easements to blend driveways and slopes back into existing ground. The county has already purchased some required right of way, and is also obtaining a permanent limited easement near the Okee General Store to build a retaining wall.

Residents may not be able to park in their driveways for a few days, but road closures should be minimal.

Signs outside the meeting urged officials to “Keep Okee rural” apparently directed toward the decision to construct curb and gutter along Highway V. According to the memo, the measure is needed because it will improve roadside drainage, while accommodating bicycles and parking on both sides of the road.

Stormwater drainage issues on Rapp Road and Red Cedar Drive will likely continue, Commissioner Hardy acknowledged. He said the county’s short-term strategy is to sealcoat the roads, and at some point in the future, pulverize and raise the roads a foot, and resurface them.

He said completing this project paves the way for more funding to be granted for that project.

“The highway committee has to juggle a lot of balls — safety, efficiency, facilities that are ready and of use — and we make the best decision (based on that).”

He explained that the county should be repairing about 15 miles of road per year, but is currently funded to complete about half that.

Hardy said that the project will address the most pressing needs in the area — parking, safety and the realignment of County V meets Highway 113, where a traffic fatality occurred two years ago.

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