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Reduced speed limits proposed on Business 151
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Traffic dropped considerably on Platteville’s south side when the U.S. 151 four-lane opened in 2005 and the existing 151 became Business 151.

In the past decade, though, commercial construction on Business 151, particularly near the east 151 exit, has picked up, and with that traffic has picked up again.

That fact, coupled with the lack of places for pedestrians to cross Business 151, has prompted the Platteville Common Council to consider reducing the speed limit in some sections.

The proposal of District 1 Ald. Barb Stockhausen would reduce the speed limit by 5 mph, going west to east, to 35 mph from the west city limit to the west Rountree Branch bridge crossing near Staley Avenue, 25 mph between Rountree Branch bridge crossings to Valley Road — including the Business 151/Wisconsin 80/81 (South Water Street) intersection — and 35 from Valley Road to East Mineral Street/East Side Road.

The proposal could be voted on as early as the next Common Council meeting Oct. 14.

The speed limit on Business 151 now is 30 mph from the west city limits to Valley Road and 40 from Valley Road to the east city limits. The speed limit was reduced from 55 mph to 40 east of East Side Road when the stoplight at Commercial Drive/Vision Drive was installed.

City Manager Larry Bierke said the speed limit change was proposed because of the “perception of danger at speed” in the area. “Given the number of points of conflict with traffic flow, it seems you want to look at this as an issue and consider what your options are.”

At-large Ald. Mike Denn was wary of reducing speed limits because of the possibility of increasing congestion at Business 151 and Water Street.

“When you slow down traffic like that, you increase congestion even more so,” he said. “That is the busiest intersection in Grant County.”

Since the 151 four-lane opened in 2005, the city has had jurisdiction of Business 151 north of just south of the Business 151–South Water Street intersection, including that intersection. West of the westernmost Rountree Branch bridge and just west of the 151/Business 151 interchange is in the Town of Platteville. The state Department of Transportation has jurisdiction over Wisconsin 80/81 south of Business 151.

Since the beginning of 2012, Platteville police have responded to 24 injury crashes and 160 property-damage crashes along the 2.5 miles of city-controlled Business 151, including a car–moped crash with an injury at Business 151 and East Side Road Sept. 5.

Police Chief Doug McKinley said he didn’t consider that total abnormally high “given the amount of traffic that travels on that roadway.” He said the “bulk” of crashes are between Water Street and the Runde Chevrolet/Buick/GMC driveway, as well as near the Business 151/Mineral Street/East Side Road intersection.

Changing speed limits along the city’s part of Business 151 would require a Common Council vote and the expense of changing speed limit signs. Making pedestrian improvements would be considerably more expensive than that.

There are no sidewalks anywhere on Business 151, though there are sidewalks north and south of Business 151 at Water Street, at Mineral Street and East Side Road, and at Commercial Drive/Vision Drive. Walmart, Menards and other businesses on the north side of East Business 151 are accessible from the north via a bike path. Restaurants on the south side of West Business 151 east of the Platteville Regional Chamber office are accessible through their connected parking lots.

At-large Ald. Amy Seeboth-Wilson said putting a pedestrian crossing at Business 151 and Water Street, which she called a “very dangerous intersection,” would cost about $500,000.

That price tag would include, according to Director of Public Works Howard Crofoot, islands with crossings compatible with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and preferably a crosswalk at Business 151 and Water Street.