By Ben Rodgers
The announcement of the grant application to make Wisconsin Highway 29 more safe near Milltown Road and County Trunk VV is a welcome one.
To see three governments come together to undertake a federal grant process to make life safer and easier for everyone who uses that area is refreshing.
Brown County Executive Troy Streckenbach deserves credit for seeing the need and directing the Planning Commission to start the application process.
Brown County, Howard and Hobart will be jointly applying for a Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) grant, which could award up to $25 million for the project, a diamond interchange at County Trunk U.
To say it’s desperately needed would be an understatement.
Safety is a major concern, as the J-turns that were originally installed at County Trunk VV as a temporary measure have become hazardous with increased traffic.
Hobart and Howard law enforcement have responded to more than 140 crashes at the intersection since 2015.
Traffic in the area can best be described as a chaotic mess that requires vehicles turning south to make the turn across a lane of oncoming traffic at full speed.
The area is so busy because it’s home to one of the best performing tax incremental financing districts in the state.
Centennial Centre in Hobart has become a residential hub complete with luxury apartments and a plethora of single-family housing.
More apartments are on the way, along with a new water tower to keep up with the explosion of growth in the area.
The only thing Centennial Centre is missing is commercial business, which won’t come until Highway 29 is more safe.
On the northside of the area, Howard has 50 acres of certified development, primed and ready to go.
However, the companies who have inquired quickly walked away due to Highway 29.
It makes sense, too, if you are going to go in business there, you want safe access to the major highway for your employees and customers.
Even Pulaski has skin in the game, as school buses tack on close to 2,500 extra miles a year to avoid turning left off Highway 29.
If ever there was a need for federal funds for a project, this is it.
Highway 29, as it is, presents concerns related to safety and development.
Federal funds are required as the state likely won’t be able to fit much of the bill, as costs are for the project expected to range between $35 and $40 million.
Roads in Wisconsin are in bad enough shape that lawmakers in Madison need to focus on maintaining what already exists, not focus on funding something new.
Plans are already drawn too, as this discussion has been happening for nearly a decade. All that’s needed are the funds to break ground.
One state lawmaker said it could take a decade or longer to get this project moving without the federal grant.
Frankly, that’s too long to wait for something that is so desperately needed.
If you support safety and economic growth, this project should be supported as well.