Howard board backs 29/VV interchange agreement
By Kevin Boneske
HOWARD – The village board voted Monday, June 10, in favor of an agreement with Brown County for constructing the State Highway 29/County VV interchange.
Village President Burt McIntyre and five trustees backed the agreement.
It calls for Howard to commit around $3.2 million over four years for its share of the project, for which the bulk of the approximately $27.8 million in funds will be coming from the a federal Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development grant.
Trustee Maria Lasecki, a longtime county employee, and Craig McAllister, whose parents live near where the interchange is planned, both abstained from voting. Trustee Chris Nielsen was absent.
Howard, along with the county and the Village of Hobart, have been seeking to have the Highway 29/County VV intersection improved because of concerns about safety with the number of accidents occurring there as well as a desire to attract more development by having a diamond interchange.
As listed in the project funding table, Howard and Hobart are each committing 11.5 percent, or around $3.2 million, with the county’s share being 5.65 percent, about $1.57 million, the state committing $75,000 (.27 percent) and almost 71 percent, around $19.7 million, in federal funds.
Geoff Farr, director of public works, said the new interchange, which is scheduled to be finished in the fall of 2022 and utilize roundabout intersections, will look similar to the Highway 29/County FF diamond interchange.
“Essentially, it is an interchange with some connecting roads,” Farr said. “In a general sense, it’s a multi-modal facility, so it will have provisions for… bike accommodations, pedestrian accommodations.”
Though the construction of an overpass with County U had been part of the original corridor study, Farr said funding for that was not included in the grant, so access to Highway 29 from County U will be eliminated.
Farr said cost overruns are not anticipated for the project, but they could occur with the interchange being a “very large project” approaching $28 million.
“Cost overruns, as you know, could be potentially millions of dollars, and that really comes back to the locals only,” he said. “The federal government won’t participate, and neither necessarily the state. We are trying to change that and have the state government cover that cost overrun.”
Farr’s report indicated cost overruns would be split 25 percent by the state and 75 percent locally.
He also noted a few exceptions to that include what’s known as community sensitive design and street lighting costs exceeding budget will be 100 percent the two villages’ costs.
Farr said the Highway 29/County VV interchange is “much, much larger than projects we typically deal with.”
He said the project will be handled by the state Department of Transportation with the local government partners having little to no control with the work taking place over four years.
Farr noted the time frame for the interchange includes right-of-way acquisition beginning this fall, utility relocations and construction beginning in the fall of 2020, bidding in the fall of 2020, bridge work and road grading beginning in the spring of 2021, and finishing bridge and roadwork in the fall of 2022.
“It is extremely rapid pace, and there isn’t really room for project flexibility,” he said.
Farr said a public hearing on the project was held June 5 at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, where the DOT presented details of the project.
He said the DOT is now accepting written comments.
To pay for Howard’s share of the project, Farr told the board the village’s budgeting options could include some borrowing or putting off some road resurfacing work.
“There is a method, one way or another, how we’re going to choose to fund this, because this is a $3 million project,” he said. “It just came up in December of last year, and so this will be a reaction to how to deal with this going forward. There is a path forward, at least one or more choices the village board will have in the future.”
Farr said the board’s approval of the agreement amounts to supporting the interchange construction and agreeing to pay the bills.
“You’ve received the grant,” he said. “If you want the money, you need to move forward. There really isn’t any time for delay in this, because the time frame is so constrained.”
Trustee Ray Suennen, who is also a county supervisor, said the interchange is moving forward because of the federal grant.
“It was not on the state’s radar for another 10 years, because the state had no funding for it,” Suennen said.
Attorney Terry Gerbers, who appeared before the board to represent McAllister’s parents, Robert and Kathy, spoke in opposition to any storm water ponds being placed on their property as well as a road dividing their land.
“While the McAllisters appreciate the fact there is a substantial opportunity here for the village and the county to receive some benefit from this project, specifically in the form of a federal grant, they also want the village to understand and appreciate that they have some underlying concerns as to the storm water, its location, how it is handled, as well as the location of the Evergreen Avenue road,” Gerbers said.
Farr said the concerns expressed by Gerbers should be forwarded to the DOT during the comment period for the interchange project.
As to the storm water ponds, Farr said they are maintained by the village.
In a related action, with the anticipated effect on traffic as a result of a new interchange, the board approved a resolution in favor of reconstructing Marley Street from Evergreen Avenue to County C/Glendale Avenue with a jurisdictional change for the village street to become a county highway.
The resolution supports the Brown County Planning Commission applying for Surface Transportation Block Grant funding.
Traffic on Marley Street, which would become County VV, is expected to increase upon the interchange being built.
“As a result of the VV interchange, some of the county roads will be cut off,” Farr said. “County U, with the overpass, will no longer exist. It’s being proposed that become a local road, and then VV will actually continue north on Marley until it intersects (County) C.”
Though the resolution calls for squaring up the intersection of Marley Street and Glendale Avenue/County C and adding turning lanes, some board members voiced their preference for having a roundabout there.
“You know, that’s a perfect spot for a roundabout, not a four-way stop,” said Trustee Cathy Hughes.
The resolution is seeking to have federal or state funds provide 80 percent of the estimated engineering and construction costs with the remaining 20 percent shared between Howard, the county and the Town of Pittsfield.