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Opponents of West Waukesha Bypass Take Issue With Costs, Environmental Impacts

While business leaders say the proposal for a $55 million bypass will be good for economy, area residents fear changes to the area.

Taxes and project costs, property values, environmental impacts and traffic noise, smell and safety are among the chief concerns among those opposing the proposed West Waukesha Bypass.

Janet Pace was there about 50 years ago when the neighbors hired an attorney and put a stop to a bypass being placed along Merrill Hills Road/Highway TT. She’s still fighting the proposal, arguing the costs are too high and the neighbors will have to smell the diesel trucks that use the road.

“I think this is absolutely ridiculous,” Pace said at a public hearing Tuesday evening at Waukesha North High School that was attended by more than 50 people.

Government transportation officials are reviewing four alternatives for the west side of Waukesha. One option is to do nothing with Highway TT, but the other three options have a 34 percent to 42 percent lower crash rate estimates. The three alternatives to create a bypass would cost between $53 million and $55 million, but reduce crashes and travel times.

From the West Waukesha Bypass website:

In February 2010, Waukesha County began a detailed study of the West Waukesha Bypass between Interstate 94 and WIS 59 on the west side of the City of Waukesha. The transportation improvements are being studied to address growing local and regional traffic volumes, and to enhance traffic flow and safety.

The West Waukesha Bypass has been in county and regional transportation plans for decades. In April 2009, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed by Waukesha County, the City of Waukesha, the Town of Waukesha, and WisDOT, identifying the local, county, and state responsibilities for studying and possibly building the West Waukesha Bypass.

Input from citizens will be part of the environmental impact study on the project. That study is expected to be culiminate next year with a decision by the Federal Highway Administration on whether to build the bypass and, if so, where to build it.

If approved, construction is tentatively planned to begin in 2015 north of Summit Avenue, and 2015 or 2016 south of Summit Avenue.

Jeff Hoffman, of Waukesha, lives near Meadowbrook Road. He said it can take minutes to turn left onto the highway and is dangerous. Additionally, the access to Interstate 94 will be key for businesses on the southwest side of Waukesha.

“It would increase the business attractiveness for the City of Waukesha,” said Hoffman, who also serves as vice president on the Waukesha County Business Alliance Board of Directors.

Suzanne Kellye, president of the Waukesha County Business Alliance, also spoke about the need for the bypass from a business and economic viewpoint. The project is important for businesses, she said, because it improves traffic flow and safety.

But most of the people who spoke publicly were not thrilled with the proposal.

Steve Schmuki, the president of the Waukesha County Environmental Action League, said he was speaking for himself when he described the project as being “crazy” for the amount of money that will be spent.

“It is a wonderful area, and this road is going to do irreparable damage to it,” Schmuki said.

Schmuki’s wife, Laurie Longtine, said the road “is not going to bypass anything.”

“It seems to be road building lust that is going on in this state,” Longtine said.

Former Town of Waukesha Chairman Bob Tallinger, who was recalled in 2010, said the residents chose that area for their homes because it was quiet. Between four and 10 homeowners could be displaced, although County Board Chairman Paul Decker noted officials would assist with relocations.

Tallinger said the bypass isn’t fair for the people who live near Highway TT.

“Who is really pushing this thing?” Tallinger asked. “Who is going to benefit? Trucks and race cars.”

Want to Give Feedback on Bypass Plan?

Waukesha County will take written comments on  the draft environmental impact statement until Dec. 10. Comments should be mailed by that date or emailed to westbypass@waukeshacounty.gov.

The mailing address is Gary Evans, Waukesha County, Department of Public Works, 515 Moreland Blvd., Waukesha, WI 53188.

SD Mittelsteadt November 27, 2012 at 01:40 AM
This bypass would effectively transform a primarily residential area to a commercial area. Life along this road would never be the same. And while it may be true that the crash rate could go down, the increased traffic and increased speeds would most likely result in far more total crashes, with more deadly consequences. And remember..... when you hear business leaders talk about "what's good for the economy", its just business speak for "it puts more money in THEIR pockets." Furthermore, the so called "making Waukesha more attractive to business" just means the local government is willing to give away the farm in order to steal businesses away from its neighbors. Time to think sustainable!!!
astasiewsk December 06, 2012 at 04:16 AM
I agree, this highway should not be built!
Mainstreet TheShaw December 06, 2012 at 09:05 PM
I am against this waste of money and intrusion to the area. It does not need to be built. It is not necessary.

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