LAFAYETTE COUNTY - The Lafayette County Highway Safety meeting was called to order by chair Tom Jean, Lafayette County Highway Commissioner on Thursday, Sept. 19.
The meeting began with a report from Ryan Mayer, Wisconsin DOT Traffic Safety. Mayer announced that regarding Hwy. 81 from Darlington to Argyle, which is getting a mill and overlay in 2022, the project has been entered into a program to receive ‘extra’ safety funds that would widen the paved shoulder from 3’ to 5’ and have rumble strips in the shoulder and in the center line.
Mayer said, “Those rumble strips have shown to be very good at reducing run off the road type of crashes. From 2013 – 2017 there were 27 run-off-the-road crashes on that stretch.”
Three representatives from Shullsburg were present at the meeting – Shullsburg Alder Emmitt Reilly, Police Chef Josh Jerry and Mayor Duane Wedige.
The city has been requesting that the state lower the speed limit on Hwy. 11 that goes through Shullsburg from 40 m.p.h. to 35 m.p.h.
Reilly started by saying, “There are 1.8 miles of Hwy. 11 in the city limits. In that stretch there are 44 driveways, street and county roads.”
Reilly continued, “The safety issue in Shullsburg isn’t getting any better.” Reilly gave background and described his chief concern as being the Co. Hwy. O intersection. What’s happening on the Co. Hwy. O is that we have three grain terminals north on Co. O. The truck traffic there is tremendous, all year round. When trucks are coming from the east (on Hwy. 11) they are legally traveling at 55 m.p.h. when the hit the top of the hill. When they reach Co. Hwy. O, where all that traffic is, they actually stop and have to swing wide to make the turn to the north on Co. Hwy. O.”
Jean interjected, “Another issue at the intersection is all the utilities that block vision.”
Jerry commented, “It’s a nightmare at the intersection, between the visibility problems and traffic. I don’t know what it would take to move those poles, but that would help.”
Reilly also pointed out there is more pedestrian traffic on Hwy. 11 and the city is considering a pathway on the side of the highway if that was permissible.
Mayer responded, “Since we met in early 2018, I have pulled the crashes and there have only been two crashes on Hwy. 11. As far as the speed limit goes, we really don’t see any issues. If you’re saying people are not obeying the current posted speed limit, you could post a dynamic speed display signs, where it flashes your speed as you approach. I understand your concerns with the semis at Co. Hwy. O.”
Reilly: “There’s more there than just an accident report.”
Wedige asked Mayer, “Can you explain why it’s 30 m.p.h. going through Gratiot and 40 m.p.h. going through Shullsburg? What causes that to be different?”
Mayer responded, “I can’t speak to Gratiot, but when the state sets speed limits on state highways. They do speed studies and it’s based on state statute. They can be adjusted based on an engineering study. We did a engineering study of Shullsburg. We take a radar gun and capture data – 100 vehicles in each direction. We look at the data and see what speeds people are comfortable driving and set the speed accordingly.”
Jean said, “We have two issues at play here. They want the speed limit to be lowered and I’m getting most of my complaints from semi traffic and Co. Hwy. O being too narrow for turning.”
Jerry commented, “On the speed limit we’re just talking reducing the speed 5 m.p.h.”
Reilly closed, “We are going to continue to pursue this. We don’t take rejection personally, we’re just moving forward in the best interest of the citizens in Shullsburg.
Jean wrapped up, “Thank you guys, it was a nice presentation, very informative. We’ll continue to push this on. I will talk to the powers at be to see if we can coordinate a meeting. I think all points are well taken. We’ll see what we can do.”
Jean disclosed, “There is a lot of interest in opening all the county roads to ATV/UTV. It’s not anything we will vote on in this meeting. We will take it up at the Dec, 2019 meeting. Grant County has opened up all their county highways. There are townships in Lafayette County that have opened up all their roads. I wanted to bring it up to see if there is any interest. I’ve got a lot of interest, mostly from ATV/UTV enthusiasts.”
Jerry spoke first, “We just opened up the streets in Shullsburg. We don’t have any problems with ATV/UTV in the city, other than parking where they weren’t suppose to park. We had routes in the city and it never caused an issue, that’s why we opened it up.”
Gill gave his take, “For a long time we were concerned about the routes, we just haven’t seen the volume of problems that we anticipated. I’m surprised that we aren’t going to vote on it at this meeting. I know Dec. is the meeting we make these decisions.”
Jean said, “I wanted to get the conversation going and bring it back to the Dec. meeting.”
Gill continued, “Originally I didn’t like the idea of opening up the whole county, but it would definitely simplify things for our guys. It’s almost impossible to know whether you’re on a route or not. We do not write many tickets (if they’re not on a route) unless they do something stupid or are involved in a crash. If you’re obeying the speed limit, have your seatbelt on, not drinking or doing something stupid, our guys aren’t going to pay a lot of attention to you. Frankly they’re everywhere.”
Mike Byrnes, new Lafayette County Game Warden added, “I’ve worked different counties across the state. I’ve noticed that in Lafayette county, ATV’s are a way of life. Since I’ve been here, I’m looking for signs to tell me what is a route and what isn’t a route. I can sure understand how the general public could get confused. Am I going to write a ticket for someone who is not on a route, when I’m somewhat confused – probably not. If you guys want to open it up, as long as we’re notified, I’m totally fine with it.”
Byrnes talked about tires on ATV/UTV’s not being set up
This will be brought to the Township Association meeting which is Oct. 28. It will be on the next Highway Safety agenda also.
Randy Wiessinger, Wisconsin DOT - Bureau of Transportation Safety (BOTS) had facts and figures for the committee, Wiessinger led with, “As of this morning there have been 380 people fatalities on Wisconsin highways traffic crashes this year, compared to 426 at this time last year. In Lafayette County there have been no fatalities.”
Frost demonstrated Community Maps, which is an interactive map that plots accidents and is available for the public to use. The information is very current and can be filtered. A new filter shows the age of drivers involved in crashes. The website is https://transportal.cee.wisc.edu/partners/community-maps/.
Sheriff Reg Gill, asked, “Do the maps have the ability to filter Amish buggy crashes or farm equipment?”
Wiessinger answered, “We have been talking about that. We do have that data (if it’s reported correctly) but we’re afraid it will bog the system down.”
In other business:
•Gill updated the Lafayette County accident report for accident through July 2019. The report stated there have been 278 accidents, with 26 injured and no fatalities.
Gill stated, “Deer continue to be a problem with 152 deer accidents.”
•A Blachardville resident, Donna Whyte, brought concerns about a school crosswalk near the school on Hwy. 78 in Blanchardville. The concern is the crosswalk is not signed and vehicles are going too fast especially at school release.