Bypass connection is part of comprehensive plan

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May 8, 2012
— As Sen. Tim Cullen sees it, the idea to connect the Highway 11 bypass with Highway 14 comes from a Janesville city planning document and a former city manager.

"It goes back to a long range vision to get bypasses all around the city, and it doesn't stop with the Highway 11 bypass to Highway 14," he said.

Cullen, D-Janesville, opposes any state plan that would rip up farmland and dislocate residents for a four-mile connection between the Highway 11 bypass and Highway 14.

He said his research indicates the bypass extension is from the city's comprehensive plan, which was adopted in 2009 and makes a wide range of transportation recommendations.

One recommendation outlines the city's preferences about extending the bypass to Highway 14:

"The city of Janesville strongly advocates for a corridor that extends approximately due north from the current bypass and is strongly opposed to a route near or west of County H because such a location will encourage urban and rural leapfrog development and be used by fewer vehicles than a route located farther to the east."

That—at least according to the 2009 comprehensive plan—puts the city in favor of W5, one of five alternatives under consideration by the state Department of Transportation for the town of Janesville. Another alternative, W4, would jog slightly northwest of W5 from Highway 11 to Highway 14.

The comprehensive plan also includes a recommendation for a "Northside Bypass" that would link Interstate 90/39 to Highway 14 via County M northeast of Janesville.

Eric Levitt, Janesville city manager, said his staff is reviewing the comprehensive plan to determine how it fits into the growing controversy in the township. The city council likely will discuss the issue later this month, he said.

"The plan does create connections, and we certainly supported it in the past," Levitt said.

Levitt was not city manager when the plan was adopted.

"I also understand that there are issues and negative aspects involved with the two alternatives," Levitt said. "We're reviewing it now because of the urgency."

Cullen has met with Levitt and transportation department officials to discuss the proposals.

Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb told Cullen the department has not committed to any alternative and will proceed with an open mind.

Still, Cullen said, there are staffers in the department who would like to see the Highway 11 bypass extension constructed quickly so it can handle detours during the expansion of Interstate 90/39 from four lanes to six between 2015 and 2021.

Cullen said he questions whether the bypass connection could be completed in time to handle Interstate traffic.

More important, he said, is that such a connection would be significant enough that it would be considered a "major" highway project that must follow channels through the Legislature, governor's office and state Transportation Projects Commission. Only then can such a project be placed and prioritized in the state's construction pipeline.

"There's no question that by itself either of these two alternatives is a ‘major,' and that program is filled through 2019," Cullen said. "This whole thing is just illogical.

"You don't spend $50 million, $100 million or $150 million to relieve what could be a four- or five-year problem on the Interstate."

As a standalone project, alternatives W4 and W5 are not supported by traffic counts that transportation officials have said cause traffic congestion on Highway 51 through Janesville, Cullen said.

"Traffic counts have to be provable based on current numbers, not old numbers that have been extrapolated," he said.

About the only significant congestion that exists in Janesville is on Milton Avenue and on Highway 14 near the big box retailers, he said, noting that he could support the alternative to widen Highway 14 through the city.

"Doing Highway 14 might make sense," Cullen said. "I think we should redo or upgrade roads if there's a sound reason to do it.

"What would this bypass connection solve? If it were a case of saving lives or addressing safety issues, then I would think we should look at it. But that argument isn't being made here."

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