The planned summer 2013 replacement of two bridges in Token Creek is raising regional concerns -- and not just because State Highway 19 will be closed for almost three months to complete the project.
Roughly 25 people attended a public informational meeting Wednesday, Dec. 19, at Windsor Elementary School, Windsor, to discuss the project. Besides the timing of the project, emergency vehicle access and permanent widening of Highway 19 were questions raised by those attending the event.
This summer, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) plans to replace two bridges – between Portage Road on the east and U.S. 51 on the west -- carrying Highway 19 traffic over two crossings of Token Creek.
On Jan. 15, 2013, the DOT plans to have pre-final plans complete, with final plan submittal due Feb. 1, 2013. Construction is expected to begin in early to late summer 2013 with road closure during the project and only limited access only for residents in the area.
“Closing down the roadway was really the last resort,” Eric Price, consultant project manager from AECOM Inc. said during the public information meeting.
Price was uncertain whether or not the project would begin after Token Creek’s July 4 celebration, but anticipated the project will take about 10 weeks to complete because of a new type of bridge construction.
The project has already raised some concerns.
On Dec. 18, Sun Prairie Mayor John Murray sent a sternly worded letter to DOT Project Engineer Mike Rampetsreiter regarding the road closure and the lack of communication with Sun Prairie about the project.
“As I’m sure you can appreciate, the closure of the highway will cause significant hardship and delays for residents, businesses and emergency service responders,” Murray wrote in the letter. “On behalf of the City of Sun Prairie, I respectfully request that DOT limit the duration when the highway will be completely closed. In addition, please forward the proposed detour for this segment of highway at your earliest opportunity.”
Emergency vehicle access, or lack thereof, was the issue raised by Sun Prairie Fire Chief Tory Strauss, whose department contracts with the Town of Windsor and the Town of Burke for fire service in the area where construction will shut down Highway 19.
During the meeting, Strauss said the Sun Prairie Volunteer Fire Department will have to detour north to Vinburn Road or south to Highway 151, then to Interstate 90-94 or U.S. 51 in order to reach the western edge of the service territory in Burke – which will significantly increase response times. That’s because emergency vehicles will not have access during construction because the easterly bridge will be removed.
Windsor Town Engineer Kevin Richardson wondered with the volume of traffic why the bridge did not include a widening of the roadway to four lanes. He pointed out Windsor residents will be doubly confounded on local roads because a portion of Windsor Road will be closed for reconstruction just after school ends in 2013 and may not reopen until late summer.
Price told residents at the meeting that the westerly of the two Token Creek bridges was recently classified by DOT bridge inspectors as the worst bridge in Dane County. The easterly bridge was not far behind the westerly one in terms of deterioration – raising the priority for the project due to the 17,500 vehicles per day using that stretch of State Highway 19.
“The driving factor is the condition of those bridges,” Price said at one point during the meeting. “They are shot.”
But Price also said because the project was a replacement, and not a reconstruction, the widening could not take place. Rampetsreiter pointed out a study would need to be completed to have the highway widened.
Tim Roehl, a real estate sales representative and consultant associated with the Revere Trails project in Windsor, criticized the DOT for not planning the project as a reconstruction. He said it made little sense to plan the project as a replacement when the volume of traffic exceeds the DOT’s 12,000 vehicle-per-day threshold for reconstruction to a four-lane road.
“Why isn’t this being designed as a four-lane from the get go?” Roehl asked.
He said the traffic volume after the project is completed – and before the DOT likely will return to widen the highway – will be approaching 30,000 vehicles per day.
Faith Thomas, who resides along the highway, said she does not want to live along the highway if it is expanded to four lanes.
“There are other roads besides State Highway 19,” Thomas said.
At 44-feet, the new bridges will be wider than the current ones, Price said, but the road width will remain the same. He also said that although the bridges will be roughly the same elevation, their design and placement on new pillars will reduce some of the flooding that occurred when Token Creek overflowed its banks.
“From the Town of Bristol’s perspective, we’re just concerned about the local traffic and to make sure they don’t push a lot of traffic in our direction,” remarked Bristol Town Chair Jerry Derr, who attended the meeting. “People are going to come out to County N, and they do already, just because of the congestion on State Highway19. There’s already people taking that into consideration. I think they’ll continue to do it. If they don’t build a four-lane, that situation will even get worse for local roads.
“Truck traffic, we need – during construction especially – to be aware they’re not using those town roads because most of our roads are posted for 10-ton, permits required. You know, we have problems with that already – some trucking companies that cut cross-country once in a while.
“It seems like the DOT is indicating the State Patrol is going to be available to help enforce, and that’s a good thing,” Derr, who also is a member of the Wisconsin Towns Association and the Dane County Towns Association, said.
“I think, from an overall ‘big picture’ perspective, this should be a four-lane road,” Derr said. “The numbers we had heard earlier – 17,500 [vehicles per day] . . . that’s way beyond the call for a four-lane road. Ten or 12 [thousand vehicles per day] was the threshold, but clearly, no matter what numbers you use, it’s probably 50 percent over and headed in the wrong direction for traffic count.”
Derr said some of the west side Sun Prairie developments will see an impact from the closure of State Highway 19 during construction.
“Frankly, somebody said it’s like a quasi-Beltline there for the north side, and that’s exactly what it is,” the Bristol town chair said. “And, the idea that we’ve got to get four-lane all the way into the city – those can be done in phases. But as long as you’re going to do this construction – in a sensitive area – let’s do it just once. If we have to disturb the creek, let’s just do it once.
“We’re concerned about the Token Creek Watershed – we’ve been on that board since it was created – but we know that construction has to happen,” Derr said. “Frankly, if you push these construction easements out to their limits on either side and then make some acquisition, there’s enough room there . . . with a center barrier, so it doesn’t take up a lot of extra room to build four lanes in there. People envision buildings on both sides have to come down – none of that has to happen here.
“I think it’s a concern for the communities of Sun Prairie, DeForest, Waunakee [because] State Highway 19 goes in that direction,” Derr said. “Certainly, from the local perspective, how it’s going to push traffic into these local roads and create some additional problems for neighborhoods . . . if we start getting half of those 17,000 cars going down Portage Road, you can only imagine what that’s going to bring.”