Hwy. M project

Jon Becker, from Capital Region Advocacy Network for Environmental Sustainability (CRANES), criticizes the design team for what his group views as a lack of diligence.

Dane County and its engineering consultant held a third public-involvement meeting last week to present the status of the Hwy. M improvement design. More than 150 people attended.

KL Engineering’s Gerry Schmitt led the night’s presentation on behalf of the design team.

“This is kind of a general overview,” Schmitt said. “It’s the things that we’ve talked about in the past – where we started, how we got to where we are, and what we’ve done so far with the public involvement process. The issues and challenges are going to be the majority.”

Schmitt summarized the preliminary design for Hwy. M, which includes a four-lane expansion from Hwy. 113 to Oncken Road, and the traffic problems that the improvement should alleviate. Also in the plan is a roundabout at the Hwy. K intersection.

The engineer said the main thing left to decide is the extent to which access will be restricted.

“We’re still discussing some of the driveways that are in sections between major intersections,” Schmitt said. “When we get into the final design, we’ll get into the details of whether those can be full access and whether people can turn left out of their driveways.”

Following Schmitt’s presentation, attendees were each given three minutes to provide input.

Vice president of the Capital Region Advocacy Network for Environmental Sustainability, Jon Becker, criticized the design team for not considering options with less environmental impact.

“We met with the county and its consulting firm about a year and a half ago and made it clear that we were hoping for the least-capacity addition approach,” Becker said. “We asked for a design study to look at (alternative solutions). Those weren’t modeled, and that’s a problem.”

Becker asked that the county consider such options prior to the final-design phase.

“We hope that before we go into final design that modeling will be done,” Becker said, “because we could solve the safety and congestion with a two-lane or three-lane (alternative), rather than with a four. And we know there’s going to have to be another solution in this area, regionally.”

Westport resident Nancy Mistele spoke on behalf of Advocates for North Mendota Parkway (A4NMP), an advocacy group comprised of people living along the Hwy. M corridor.

“We have been watching this project very closely for the last year and a half,” Mistele said. “And we appreciate everything that Gerry and Dane County have done for us. We’ve gotten a lot of information and traffic counts. And the importance of that is helping people understand it.”

Mistele said her group supports the current four-lane expansion, but nothing south of it.

“That’s an incredible amount of concrete,” Mistele said, “when the problem really is for one hour a day, five days a week. And the rest of the time, you could land airplanes on it. So we’re pleased with the idea that it’s not on the map at the moment. But we’re concerned it may pop up again.”

The date of the next public-involvement meeting has yet to be determined.

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