Proposed Janesville highway project draws concerns
IF YOU GO
What: A state Department of Transportation meeting with landowners affected by a proposed connection of the Highway 11 bypass to Highway 14 on Janesville’s west side.
When: 6 p.m. Thursday
Where: Janesville Town Hall, 1628 N. Little Court, which is just off County A west of Janesville.
Details: The meeting is open to the public.
JANESVILLE Portions of a state proposal to connect the Highway 11 bypass to Highway 14 on Janesville’s west side have rankled some landowners, particularly those who could be affected by a four-mile segment of new highway.
State officials will be in Rock County on Thursday to meet with landowners affected by the proposed connection.
Several landowners question the need for the project and are concerned that they will lose homes and buildings and be forced to sell land at what one said is a “ridiculous” price.
Mark Westerveld, a project manager for the state Department of Transportation, said 44 property owners have been invited to the meeting at the Janesville Town Hall.
For years, the department has been studying the Highway 11/14 corridor in Rock and Walworth counties. Generally, the studies have broken into eastern and western sections, with Interstate 90/39 as the dividing line.
Westerveld said traffic counts support a Highway 14 connection to the Highway 11 bypass, which was completed in 2002 at a cost of about $22 million.
As the state moves forward with plans to widen the Interstate to six lanes between Beloit and Madison, Westerveld said the connection between the Highway 11 bypass and Highway 14 becomes timelier. It would handle traffic detoured off the Interstate during construction.
“We were going to do the western segment at some point, and with the plans for the Interstate, we’ve put the eastern section on hold and have moved the western section up somewhat,” he said.
The state has five alternatives for the western project:
-- Do nothing, other than routine maintenance on existing highways.
-- Improvements that could include intersection, signal or other access modifications.
-- Widen Highway 14 from two lanes to four west of Highway 51. Highway 14 east of Highway 51 and through Janesville would be expanded from four lanes to six. This alternative is referred to in DOT documents as W3.
-- Relocate part of Highway 14 at a point between Britt and Burdick roads, angling it southeast along property lines to join Highway 11. This alternative is referred to as W4.
-- Relocate part of Highway 14 at a point east of Burdick Road, running it straight south to Highway 11. This alternative is referred to as W5.
The latter two alternatives would be built as two-lane highways. They would, however, include enough right-of-way so the road could be expanded to four lanes to meet 2040 traffic count projections.
The latter two are generating the most interest.
“The people affected are really concerned, as you would expect,” said Ed Marshall, Janesville town chairman. “Others who aren’t affected who know about it have some empathy, and some others know nothing about it.”
Marshall has heard discussion about the need for the project and whether traffic counts warrant the expansion or if it’s just a short-term, expensive solution to alleviate construction delays on the Interstate.
Marshall said the town posted maps during Tuesday’s election, and they seemed to generate interest.
Property owner Kim Wincapaw has an interest, as the W5 option would take 44 acres of her land and force several buildings to be moved.
Wincapaw’s property is at the north end of the proposed bypass extension at Highway 14. An interchange would be built on her property.
“My main concern is that they’re talking about some ridiculous sum of money, $4,000 to $6,000 per acre, is what I’ve heard,” she said. “There’s no way you can buy farmland like this for that, especially land on a major highway this close to town.”
Wincapaw said she derives income from the property, primarily from the farmland she rents and the businesses that lease buildings from her.
“I survive on that income,” she said. “It’s my retirement and my kids’ inheritance.”
Wincapaw is concerned about the amount of capital gains tax she would pay if she’s forced to sell her land to the state.
“This isn’t the most magnificent land, but it’s flat, and it’s a farmer’s dream,” she said. “I don’t want the money. It’s never been my intention to sell the land.”
Westerveld said the 44 people invited to Thursday’s meeting have property that touches one or both of the two bypass extension alternatives.
He said the state has not made a decision on which of the five alternatives it will pursue. That, he said, could come later this summer or early fall.
Construction costs are preliminary and vary depending on the alternative, he said. At this point they range from zero for doing nothing to $180 million for the four-lane version of either W4 or W5.
Initially, he said, W4 or W5 would be built as a two-lane highway at a cost of about $50 million.
Expanding Highway 14 would cost about $50 million, he said.
Rep. Evan Wynn, R-Whitewater, represents the town of Janesville. He’s primarily concerned that W4 or W5 would be an expensive, short-term option to alleviate Interstate construction congestion.
“After that’s done, then what?” he said. “What happens after three years of Interstate construction is done and the traffic counts on the new road go way down?
“I’m concerned about the cost to taxpayers, as well as the idea that we would rip up several hundred acres of farmland and people could lose theirs houses and buildings.”
Wynn, who will attend Thursday’s meeting, said if the state has money to spend, he’d prefer it be spent to repair existing roads.
Correspondence from the state-hired infrastructure consultant on the project indicates that an environmental impact statement will be done later this year. The project then would move into the design phase, with anticipated construction in the spring of 2015.
Based on that schedule, the state would start buying right-of-way for its selected route next year.
Westerveld said Thursday’s meeting will be an informal gathering requested by a property owner. It will serve as an update on the alternatives and the state’s schedule, he said.