Just Fix It Wisconsin

State 23 expansion delayed; interim work begins 9/15/2016

9/15/2016, Fond du Lac Reporter – Expect more traffic delays at a busy intersection that carries the flow of traffic to and from Fond du Lac’s consolidated Catholic education system.

Construction of safety improvements at State Highway 23 and County Highway K on the city’s east side is set to begin Monday, with lane closures along State 23 and the shutdown of Highway K for at least seven days in October.

The revamping of the intersection is supposed to be a temporary fix to deal with upward of 600 additional cars flowing into SMSA’s consolidated 4k to grade 12 campus. The plan banks on the long-awaited State 23 four lane expansion project from Fond du Lac to Plymouth becoming a reality.

But Thursday’s release of the Department of Transportation’s proposed 2017-19 budget has more bad news, with the State Highway 23 plan shelved under a list of road project delays for at least three years, and no allocated funding.

Following the DOT’s budget release, a joint press release was issued by state senate candidate Dan Feyen (R-Fond du Lac), Sen. Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) and Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R-Fond du Lac), calling the delay a “detriment to local economies…and a safety risk for motorists, tourists and workers that use Highway 23 for work and travel.”

“There is no reason we can’t find a solution that allow crucial projects like Highway 23 to keep moving forward,” the statement reads.

The project was put on hold almost two years ago when the group, 1,000 Friends of Wisconsin, filed a lawsuit against the United States Department of Transportation. Eastern District Court Judge Lynn Adelman stalled the project until more analysis was done on future traffic projections. The Wisconsin Department of Justice filed an appeal on behalf of the Wisconsin DOT and the United States DOT against the decision.

Meanwhile, reconstruction at the intersection will move forward as planned to create slotted, left turn lanes on State 23, right turn islands on County K, and remove the median immediately west of the intersection. The improvements will prohibit left turns and through movements from County K until an overpass can be constructed.

Mark Kantola, regional communication manager with the DOT, said requirements and protocols prevented the construction from beginning in the summer, when school was out.

“It takes a while to meet design requirements, public outreach protocol, coordinate utilities and utility moves, and complete the required environmental process (wetland impacts, property impacts, sign offs from federal and other state agencies),” Kantola said.

With the design of the project did not start until mid-February, Kantola said six months may be the fastest he’s seen a DOT project start and begin construction.

During the construction there will be no signed detour. The DOT suggests motorists can take U.S. 151 north to K to access Highway K north of State 23 and motorists can travel U.S. 151 south to Rienzi Road to access Highway K south of State 23.

Fond du Lac County Sheriff’s Capt. Ryan Waldschmidt, who serves as the Fond du Lac County’s Highway Safety Coordinator, said they have been working with Fond du Lac police to step up patrol of the area, focusing on the start and end the school day.

A $40,000 highway safety grant has also allowed them to increase enforcement along State 23 east while another grant is tentative for the upcoming year.

“We have had officers up and down the highway and that breeds compliance, and has reduced the number of crashes,” Waldschmidt said. “We will do our best to keep the highway safe until legislators and the DOT can decide what to do as far as actual road improvements.”

The $274,000 project is scheduled to be completed by November.

Motorists are asked to slow down and be careful in work zones. All work is weather depended, and schedule is subject to change.