Marquette Road, from Mooney to La Pointe, will become three lanes

By Correne Martin

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation was noticeably absent at the Prairie du Chien Common Council meeting Tuesday night, in spite of council action to amend a contract for the 2017 Marquette Road project, calling for a three-lane road to be constructed from Mooney Street to La Pointe Street. The section of road will include two driving lanes and a center turn lane, along with eight-foot shoulders for right-hand turns.

“The DOT does not plan to have anyone at tonight’s meeting, as they feel they’ve made their case,” City Administrator Aaron Kramer said.

That case became pretty clear at the April 8 council meeting, when three DOT representatives informed the council that a three-lane road was the safest and preferred option, as opposed to the current four lanes—the option most council members seemed to support then. According to the DOT, the city was not likely to receive any state or federal funding for the project if the council voted to keep that section of road at four lanes. That would mean the city would have to foot the bill, and Administrator Kramer said the city doesn’t have the capacity to borrow that kind of money on its own. A five-lane option was also ruled out April 8 because it would displace nine businesses and three residences, thus significantly impacting the city’s tax roll.

“I guess the question is, are they letting us have a say at all?” Alderman Todd Myers asked Kramer and Mayor Dave Hemmer Tuesday night. He pointed out that the cost of a four-lane road was about the same as a three-lane road. “I think it’s important for the public to know if we don’t have a choice.”

“It seems safety trumps financial,” Kramer responded. “My only fear is if we want four lanes, we may not see this done in 2017. It could be pushed back.”

“I’m all for safety, but if [the DOT] says they want to be good partners with us, they could’ve at least had people here to answer more of our questions,” Alderman Frank Pintz stated.

Changing the direction of the conversation, Alderwoman Jean Titlbach spoke, “At the risk of putting my head on the chopping block, I think three lanes is safer.”

Alderman Ron Leys agreed. “This is not a city street. This is a state highway and the state is going to rebuild it,” he said.

Alderman Ken Fleshner countered, “It’s a crap sandwich, but I’ll probably vote for it because I feel like I’m being bullied to do it.”

In the end, Alderwoman Karen Solomon motioned and Leys seconded approval of the amended contract, allowing for Marquette Road, from Mooney to La Pointe, to become three lanes in 2017. Those council members voting against the motion were Kyle Kozelka, Pintz and Nate Gilberts.

Throwing parade candy
Another debated agenda item Tuesday night was the consideration of an ordinance prohibiting the throwing of candy and other favors from participants to spectators at parades in the city. While a first reading was approved Tuesday night, a second and final reading will be needed May 6 in order for the ordinance to become city rule.

Protection and Health Committee Chairwoman Titlbach explained the rationale behind the proposed ordinance. She said the topic came up after prompting from community members following the St. Patrick’s Day parade. Most of the concerned individuals had driven in the parade and felt nervous about hitting children running into the roadway. Titlbach said the proposal would not ban candy being dispensed at parades, but it would require it to be done in a manner that did not lead people into the street. This could be accomplished by walkers along the sidelines passing the candy or lightly tossing the candy close to the curb.

“There may not have been any accidents in Prairie du Chien, but if we had an accident, the knee-jerk reaction would be to pull candy from parades altogether,” Titlbach stated. “We would like to allow people to hand candy out all day long. We just don’t want anything that encourages people to run into the roadway.”

Kramer recommended the following language be added to section one of the ordinance: “from a motor vehicle or parade animal.”

The council unanimously approved the ordinance, 10-0, Tuesday.

Marquette Road this year
Kramer presented a revised construction schedule for this year’s Marquette Road construction. He said the DOT and the contractor, H. James and Sons, of Fennimore, are working on a plan to do the work this year, which would require a six-day-a-week, 12-hour-per-day schedule, as well as combining phases one and two, and three and four. He said a public meeting will be held on Wednesday, April 30, at 1 p.m., at City Hall to provide more information. Meetings will then be held every other Wednesday, starting May 7, at 2:30 p.m. at City Hall, to address public concerns and questions. No formal action was taken.

Other business
After a public hearing on the matter, the council determined there is no public need for the land commonly known as the Stratton property, located at the southwest intersection of Blackhawk Avenue and Main Street in downtown Prairie du Chien. This process opens up the land to parties interested in purchasing the property and allows for Requests for Proposals (RFPs) in the sale of the land.

The council learned that an anonymous donation of $36,000 will be earmarked for upgrading the tennis courts at Hoffman Hall. The city will not use budgeted funds for the project.

The council approved a resolution to officially support the expansion project of the Prairie du Chien Memorial Library.

No parking on Wells Street from 17th Street to 22nd Street during school hours was approved, at the request of Bluff View School staff.

The council authorized bidding out the improvements at Brunson Court—the former Prairie Maison property.

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