Residents met with Wisconsin Department of Transportation representatives May 21 to discuss the upcoming $14 million bridge-replacement project on Interstate 39/90/94 in Arlington.
The meeting, held at the Arlington Village Office, aired a number of concerns related to the project. Some residents described frustration with a perceived lack of transparency regarding the department’s decision to implement dual roundabouts for the exits, which are meant to prepare the area for peak traffic and future growth, according to the WDOT.
Attendees raised concern over the potential increase of crash rates within roundabouts. Others said an altered traffic pattern will decrease storefront visibility and lead to diminished patronage.
Some residents were frustrated after a WDOT spokesman said the roundabouts will be implemented despite the criticism.
“Our information means nothing,” one attendee complained.
“Basically (our opinion) doesn’t make a difference,” another agreed.
In response, WDOT Project Manager Chris Hazard said the public’s input is considered up “to a point,” but remained adamant that roundabouts will be utilized in the project. He said the traffic circles are working throughout Wisconsin.
Hazard said he came to the meeting expecting pushback but was confident people would eventually warm up to the idea. He said roundabouts can become hot-button issues.
“When we present the roundabouts in a new location, the public disagrees with them,” he said. “Once the roundabouts are in, we found the public does agree with them.”
The WDOT remains in talks to acquire the necessary land from owners, including Bill Sellner who owns Bill’s Towing and Auto Repair on Highway 60 in Lodi.
He said the WDOT is utilizing eminent domain to acquire a right-of-way through his land to build the updated configuration. Sellner said he’s frustrated because he purchased the land specifically for its easy access to highway frontage.
“You put these ramps in, people drive by,” Sellner told WDOT representatives during the meeting. “…We bought that property because those ramps are in there… Everybody is going to lose a lot of business.”
Residents also voiced concern that some of the most-likely detour routes, such as Highway K, are little more than “wagon paths,” according to one attendee, and they were never intended to service heavy traffic.
Despite the words of caution expressed by some that night, other residents weren’t concerned, including Arlington Chairman Nate Moll. Moll downplayed negative impacts created by roundabouts and told the DeForest Times-Tribune that drivers just need time to acclimate themselves.
“I drive through all these roundabouts, and everyone complains about them at first, but they ease up the flow of traffic,” Moll said.
Several other attendees asserted that roundabouts in Waunakee have improved the flow of traffic there.
The bridges set for replacement were built in the 1960s and have reached the end of their service life, according to the WDOT. Highway 60 will also be lowered to meet updated standards for bridge clearances.
The project is scheduled to begin during the fall of 2022, documents indicate, when preparation for phase one of the project begins.
Phase two of the project includes closure of the northbound interstate to rebuild the northbound bridge and Highway 60 during spring 2023. Phase three begins in the spring of 2024 for rebuilding of the southbound bridge and Highway 60.
Ramps for Highway 39 will also be shut down as needed.
During closure, the WDOT will reroute traffic along state highways. Primary detour routes will include Highway 51, 133, 19 and 60 to Highway 78.