This debate is heating up again.
Washington County Administrator Joshua Shoemann, tells FOX6 News at the request of the Hartford Area Development Cooperation, the county is once again revisiting the possibility of adding a reliever route to Highway 60.
“The county board asked us to take a look at where the best route was. It happened to be right here on Highway K through the unincorporated Town of St. Lawrence,” said Schoemann.
The request was made in 2016, but it’s been brought up time and time again since the 70s. The proposal is to build a new road to ease congestion. That has many worried it could risk the future of area landmarks, like the Little Red Inn restaurant.
“I get asked constantly about this project; there is a lot of concern if the building is going to stay here. It’s very historical to customers and important to them,” said Little Red Inn Manager, Miranda Stewart.
Even more concerned are farmers who fear the project could take away acres of their land.
“It’s a very big deal. There’s no land around, we are close to the city and it’s all developed. We need land and it’s just not around here,” said Curtiss Becker, Becker Dale Farms.
A listening meeting is happening Tuesday, January 31st at 6:30 p.m. inside Hartford Town Hall, where there will be opportunity for public comment.
The argument is basically this… Hartford’s industrial park and commercial center lies on the west side of town. This required the businesses there, and pass-through traffic, to run their trucks through the middle of Hartford on Highway 60 to get to Interstate 41. This creates noise and congestion in the city and delays and frustration for the drivers. To relieve this, some folks want a reliever route around the north side of town. Essentially, it would be a partial loop with free traffic flow between the interstate and the west side of town.
The downside is two-fold. First, the reliever route would require the purchase and destruction of farmland and homes. Second, the reliever route would be expensive. The State of Wisconsin has already rejected the project, so Washington County taxpayers would foot the bill if the project moves ahead.
Overall, I think the return for this project is exceedingly dubious. Some of the proponents argue that the reliever route will spur economic development. I’m skeptical about that claim. If access to the interstate is the driver for economic development, then there are still plenty of open areas with ready access to I-41 and within a convenient drive from Hartford, Slinger, Jackson, Germantown, and other communities in Washington County. If the County is looking for a place to spur development, an expensive highway project to funnel activity to the west side of Hartford seems like a poor use of taxpayer resources.
How many snakes of lesser pedigree might be displaced by such a route, and could some box culverts with natural land paths be a viable alternative to stop snow blindness in major cat populations?