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Our Views: Bypass of Milton good to go

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August 17, 2013

Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines! While we borrow this famous phrase from the Indy 500, the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” we urge drivers to proceed with caution as they head out on the new Highway 26 bypass around Milton starting Friday.

Don’t expect a racetrack. It might take motorists months to become familiar with the bypass and its exits and on ramps. Be patient with fellow drivers.

Teri Schopp, state Department of Transportation spokeswoman, expects hesitant drivers.

“There is definitely a learning curve with every new roadway, particularly bypasses,” she told reporter Neil Johnson in Tuesday’s Gazette. “They’re offset from the existing roadway, and it is unfamiliar.”

Milton City Administrator Jerry Schuetz told Johnson it could take a year for people to get accustomed to the bypass.

“I’ll tell you, it’s really surprising how far it takes you around the city,” said Schuetz, who toured what was then a gravel roadbed months ago.

Just think, however: no more daily rumble of heavy semitrailer trucks rattling the paint off walls of homes adjacent to the current Highway 26 route—what will become Janesville Street in Milton when the bypass opens. Drivers and pedestrians will enjoy a quieter, less congested stream of traffic on Milton’s east side. Commuters and others traveling Highway 26 between Janesville and Fort Atkinson will avoid traffic snarls and delays at that Milton railroad crossing.

As motorists get comfortable, the bypass will quicken that Janesville-to-Fort drive. Time is money, and the bypass will improve transportation for people and businesses, bolstering regional commerce.

Some area residents might even find that the bypass and expansion of Highway 26 to four lanes between Milton and Fort—a project expected to wrap up in November 2014—will create a better option for reaching Milwaukee and its western suburbs. A straight path between Janesville and Wisconsin’s biggest city has never existed. Many drivers take County A and/or County ES, while others take highways 11 and 14 to reach Interstate 43. With Highway 26 already bypassing Fort and Jefferson, a four-lane Highway 26 all the way to Interstate 94 could quicken and ease the drive from here to Milwaukee.

Some Milton businesses are nervous because many potential customers no longer will drive by their shops and restaurants, creating concern that they’ll be “out of sight, out of mind.” Yet as Johnson reported months ago, businesses in Fort and Jefferson have learned that good values and services at fair prices still pull patrons.

Milton businesspeople and officials have been preparing for the bypass for years. That’s why the city took steps to make over and create more family-friendly uses for the east-side Goodrich Park and worked on new rules for off-site business signage.

It’s also why the city council acted decisively Tuesday in approving land deals that include buying 23 acres and annexing 158 more to expand the business park along what will be the Highway 26/59 corridor. The extra land will nearly double the business park and boost options for industrial and commercial developments.

The bypass means progress, and Milton has positioned itself as best it can as a new era of local transportation rolls out this week.



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