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Baraboo leaders grill DOT boss on local roads

September 19, 2018

Wisconsin’s road boss has promised Baraboo leaders a meeting to address local traffic problems.

State Transportation Secretary Dave Ross spoke with local officials and engineers Monday at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville Baraboo/Sauk County. After hearing Mayor Mike Palm detail concerns about Highways 136 and 33, Ross promised a meeting with Department of Transportation decision-makers and project engineers.

“Whoever you want there, they’ll be there,” Ross said.

Palm said construction of a four-lane Highway 12 route west of Baraboo, featuring an exit at Sauk County Highway W, created congestion at the intersection of W and 136. Drivers have called for the city to activate dormant traffic signals at W and Commerce Avenue, but the city engineer has expressed concern that traffic stopped at a red light there could back up onto 12.

Allowing left turns onto 136 from the commercial complex that includes Walmart, Palm said, would improve traffic flow. “We’ve got a real bottleneck,” he said. “There’s a lot of upset people out there.”

Palm said the DOT has opposed a “curb cut” allowing left turns at that location. “It certainly would help alleviate the problem,” he said. “We scratch our heads as to why that can’t happen.

“This is a problem DOT created, and we’re looking to DOT for a solution.”

The agency had promised a solution by mid-August, Palm said. Doing the work now would be cost-effective, as road crews are already here rehabilitating 136 in West Baraboo.

Ross said widespread flooding delayed projects at the regional office in La Crosse. “That office has been buried in flooding work,” he said. “We have a lot of things on hold.”

He promised to arrange a meeting with DOT officials and engineers. Also to be discussed is the status of Highway 33, which is slated for a $9 million rebuild in 2024.

Palm noted that in 2016, the city spent $500,000 on its own to rebuild the road’s outer lanes. “It’s not fair to the taxpayers of Baraboo to foot that entire bill,” he said.

The DOT plans to rebuild nearly 2 miles of the busy and battered road. The project has been a long time coming, as the city has sent annual letters to the DOT asking that it fund Highway 33 reconstruction. The city is paying about a quarter of the $1 million in preliminary design work needed.

The design phase will reveal whether Highway 33 — which doubles as Eighth Street/Avenue — will continue to be a four-lane artery, or whether it will be reduced to single eastbound and westbound lanes, with a turn lane in between. The DOT also may address safety concerns by straightening offset intersections such as the one at Jefferson Street, which makes entering and crossing the roadway challenging.

Highway 33/Eighth Street is Baraboo’s key east-west artery. It connects Interstate 90/94 with U.S. Highway 12. Traffic volume ranges from 10,600 to 14,800 vehicles per day, depending on the segment of road.

The federal government will cover 80 percent of the cost of rebuilding 33, with the state chipping in 20 percent. The city will pay for utility work related to water mains, as well as any aesthetic touches it might choose to add.

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