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December 17, 2017

12/5/2017 7:29:00 AM
Highway commissioner gives update on Rhinelander roadway overhaul project
Key but highly dangerous intersection to be upgraded

Evan J. Pretzer
Lakeland Times reporter

During a Nov. 29, meeting of the Oneida County Public Works Committee, highway commissioner Bruce Stefonek revealed residents and visitors who come to Rhinelander can look forward to navigating a less dangerous road near the highway department's offices in the future.

Recently, a study conducted by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) revealed the intersection of U.S. Highway 8 and State Highway 47 by the county highway department's Kemp Street facility was highly incident prone.

From 2012-2016, more than 20 motorists were accidents while navigating this section of road and one individual was killed.

In response to this risk, the state and other officials instituted a plan of action which Stefonek briefed about last Wednesday.

"Two weeks ago, a lot of people from the area were invited to a DOT meeting to discuss the intersection of 8 and 47," he said. "(Up next), there's going to be a public involvement meeting on Dec. 12, where they'll bring two proposals to the public. One will be a roundabout and the other will be similar to what is there now, but the turning lanes will be offset."

Once this is done, state officials will then select an option in January 2018 before revealing their choice to the public in February.

Though precise cost estimates aren't yet known, officials believe offsetting the turning lanes in question will cost 30 percent more than construction of a roundabout.

Committee member and county supervisor Ted Cushing indicated he leaned towards the costlier option.

"If they put a roundabout in, I'll never be able to get to meetings," Cushing said. "They do stop critical accidents, but sometimes, I've been in some where five or six roads are coming in (to the circle), it is crazy and people don't know what the f--- is going on."

In response to his concern, fellow supervisor and committee member Scott Holewinski chimed in, assuring Cushing a circular intersection wouldn't be a complex or massive issue for area drivers.

"This won't be a problem," he said. "Why we live up north (is because there aren't a lot of people here.)"

Ultimately - according to Stefonek - whatever is selected will not so much be up to Oneida County officials as it will be those who attend public meetings and make their voices heard.

"When considering a project, the state rates public opinion very highly in their evaluation process," Stefonek said. "I don't know exactly how they weigh it, but the majority of the people I've spoken to are against roundabouts. If they show up to the meetings, we'd probably end up with the offset turning lanes option."

Evan J. Pretzer may be reached via email at evan@lakelandtimes.com.

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