Highway 23 Expansion Project Public Hearing
The Wisconsin DOT held a public hearing about the future of Highway 23 at UW Fond du Lac last night – as required for final federal approval for the project. It was standing-room only as citizens met with the DOT to discuss the proposed expansion to Highway 23 between Fond du Lac and Plymouth.
DOT Project Manager Bryan Lipke says the number of crashes may be lower than the statewide average for similar highways, but the severity of the crashes is the bigger issue. He tells us “they’re high injury crashes, they’re fatalities – and the crash statistics don’t necessarily tell the whole story of the near misses. And what we hear from people is they’re avoiding the route. And that’s hard to measure because we’re not putting traffic counting devices on all these side roads. We can justify that the volumes are increasing but where is the traffic going? The traffic is not driving on the corridor, they don’t feel safe.”
Most people who voiced their opinions through the public comment period of the hearing agreed, and were strongly in support of expanding the road into a four-lane separated highway. Emotions ran high for some who respond to the scenes of major crashes and encounter the issues of the road on a daily basis.
Arnold Baganz says he’s lived along the highway his entire life, and says he has encountered more crashes than he can count. Baganz has been on the scene of multiple serious collisions with major injuries and fatalities, including a number of them directly in front of his home. He wanted to make several points, saying “number one, traffic is down because people do not feel safe driving on that road – and if they’d make it safe, there would be a whole lot more traffic. The second thing is – how much is a human life worth? Isn’t it worth spending some money to save some lives?”
Other residents who live in subdivisions close to the highway – like Anita Loritz – aren’t too keen on the proposed plans. She argues she “can sit on my deck and listen to the traffic passing and there will be long segments of time where there isn’t a single car going either direction. There just isn’t enough traffic to warrant a four lane expansion.”
There were also concerns raised about the time for emergency responders to get into some neighborhoods near the highway. If the plan is approved, construction could begin next summer.