My son and I attended a meeting of the Crawford County Highway Safety Commission on Tuesday, February 3, at the welcoming location of the Crawford County Jail Conference Room. While I am very pleased to have been invited to the meeting by Mr. Denis Pelock, I was surprised to have been included. I felt it was my civic duty to attend and bring these issues to light with the county and I was glad to go. I went with high hopes and low expectations and came out not disappointed.
As you may have guessed I entered the meeting to discuss the speed limit and safety issues here in Gays Mills. I am concerned, as many of your readers will remember, with the safety of our residents along State Highway 131 north of Main Street. My main concern along this route is for those residents who need to travel by foot or bicycle from downtown to the Market Place or from the north side to downtown to go to the pool or to the few businesses still on Main Street.
There simply isn’t a safe way for pedestrian traffic to move along the narrow shoulder of the highway with traffic traveling at 45 miles per hour, or greater, because, come on, we all know people are going faster than 45 when they are on their way to work or their way home. There’s barely enough room on those shoulders for Jack Williams to get to his mailbox without getting blown around by the traffic whizzing by his home.
I did notice on the drive down though, that along State Highway 27 from Eastman to Prairie du Chien the shoulders are wide enough to park a car on with no residents for a mile in either direction. I’m sure all the pedestrians there are lining up to walk back and forth in the comfort of the luxurious lanes they have been afforded. Perhaps it is time to do the same thing along sections of HW 131?
It was suggested that the village put in a “multi-use pathway” from downtown to the new development and the commission seemed to be quite surprised when my son and I informed them that there is no money available for such a project. While there is 70 feet of right-of-way along the highway in question, funding for that path is long gone and the chances of getting a grant to do the work now, without a school in the village is very unlikely.
We have been instructed to contact the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to request a study be done along the highway to determine if a change is necessary. The problem we have found with these “studies” has been they ignore peak travel times as they are deemed to be “unnatural” when compared to traffic patterns during the rest of the day. To that I say, “N/S!” Of course peak times are heavier, that’s why it’s called PEAK TIME. That is when the majority of the traffic, both vehicular and pedestrian is on the road. The rest of the day, traffic is comparatively light. We were informed the DOT likes to do their studies during the summer on nice weather days around noontime. Well, I can tell you that at around noon during the summer you won’t have students flying to school from 7 to 9 AM. There won’t be folks rushing to work on time either.
If we are ever to draw folks to our little valley we’re going to have to ensure they can safely get from one end of town to the other without worrying about getting clipped by a kid who is late for school.
That’s enough on that issue for now. I will be asking Mr. Pelock to attend out next Village Board meeting to inform the rest of the members of exactly what we need to do to get the attention of the state on this issue.
Now, on the other side of town along Highway 171 we discussed the lack of visibility at Old Gays Road and West Point Road and that having traffic accelerating out of town as you try to negotiate turns from those roads and the driveways between, you just can’t be sure you won’t have a vehicle climbing up your bumper soon after you make your turn.
I’ve sat in Barbara Sand’s living room, right off the Old Gays Road intersection, visiting and drinking coffee and watched as several vehicles would meet with near disaster trying to negotiate that turn. Cars and trucks coming down from the west are really just starting to slow down by the time they get there.
Now imagine making a left-hand turn out of Old Gays Road. When you look up the short stretch of highway you can see from the stop sign you may see nothing there. But once you make the turn you had best be accelerating hard to make sure there’s isn’t a semi crawling up your bumper. A right hand turn is no better really, but at least you’re only crossing one lane to get into traffic.
It is my suggestion that the speed limit be dropped well before you get to the crest of the hill coming down by Mary McCann’s house. There should also be hidden entrance and driveway signs alerting drivers to the fact folks pulling into traffic are doing so pretty much on a wing and a prayer. At least if drivers know they’re supposed to slow down maybe they’ll be more cautious as they roll into town.
I don’t think we’re asking for much. Just a little concern for the residents here in the valley and for some action before someone gets killed.
You may be interested in knowing the commission is discussing changing the signage on the orchard hill to hopefully avoid future accidents on the hairpin curve. Unfortunately, they didn’t act soon enough on that one.
- John R. Johnson