Highway plan accomodates Greenville’s urbanization
By Scott Bellile
A State Highway 76 reconstruction project scheduled for 2022 will give motorists a smoother ride and better accommodate cyclists and pedestrians in Greenville, according to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.
The proposed improvements would span a two-mile stretch running from County JJ to the north to State 15 to the south. WisDOT says 6,000 people drive it every day.
The project is scheduled for March 2022 with the possibility of an earlier start date.
The project includes:
• Reconstruction of State 76 from Everglade Road to County JJ, including curb and gutter, sidewalks, bicycle accommodations, and storm sewer.
• A single-lane roundabout at County JJ. Roundabouts cut down on serious accidents and traffic delays, the DOT says.
• New traffic signals at State 15 and State 76. The intersection saw 42 accidents between 2010 and 2015, a number WisDOT says isn’t significant given the intersection’s high traffic volume but can be reduced.
• Bike lane marking and signing from Parkview Drive to Everglade Road.
The estimated cost ranges from $5 million to $6 million, according to Mark Kantola, communications manager for WisDOT. Typically highway projects are split between the federal government (approximately 80 percent) and the state government (20 percent). Greenville and Outagamie County would see no costs, he said.
Two reasons WisDOT says the project is necessary are because State 76’s roadway core and pavement are worn out, and increased urbanization in the once-rural town calls for better walking and biking accommodations.
Timothy Verhagen, WisDOT project manager, said at a public information meeting in Greenville on Dec. 2 that the roadway was built in 1927 or 1928.
WisDOT aims to get 50 to 60 years of use out of a road before major rework, Verhagen said. State 76 is pushing 88 years.
Located on the edge of the Fox Valley, Greenville’s population has surged from 3,974 residents in 1990 to 10,857 people in 2014, according to WisDOT.
“The population has almost tripled since the 1990s,” Verhagen said. “With that population growth, I guess now the area around the project kind of is considered an urban environment, so maybe the roadway as it is today doesn’t necessarily meet the needs of the surrounding community.”
At the Dec. 2 public information meeting, the majority of Greenville residents in attendance expressed opposition toward the project. They voiced concerns over the project’s effects on their front yards, drainage issues and bringing bikers and pedestrians onto a high-speed road.
John Warnke, a resident on State 76, criticized WisDOT’s plan because he doesn’t want to lose part of his yard to a sidewalk that he predicted pedestrians won’t utilize.
“Tell them to drive somewhere,” Warnke told Verhagen. “I can’t count on my hand how [few] people I’ve seen walk up my hill … Walk up that hill. How many people do you see doing that? They won’t.”
Verhagen told residents sometimes decisions have to be made that aren’t popular with everybody in order to benefit the public.
“It’s just one of the negative things that occur when you live along a state trunk highway, is that at some point it’s going to be reconstructed, and some ways there will be impacts,” Verhagen told residents. “This is what we have to do to provide a safe and efficient transportation system, to serve all people.”
Carl Abendroth, who owns a farm along State 76, questioned who would be responsible for the upkeep of the proposed sidewalks.
“When you get sidewalks and that stuff along there, who’s going to pick up the trash and mow the lawn?” he asked.
Sue Jorgenson, a resident on State 76, said she worries drainage issues will lead to flooding in her yard, and she finds plans for a bike lane, hiking trail and sidewalks to be “overkill.” She will move if the project remains as is, she said.
“I think the town needs to actually ask the people what they want rather than them making the decisions for us,” Jorgenson said.
A call to Greenville’s town administrator for the town’s side of the issue was not returned before the Press Star went to press.
Verhagen said after the meeting he spoke with one supporter, but it’s more common to hear from people opposed to projects at public information meetings. He told attendees during the meeting he’s heard positive feedback from people who are eager to walk and bike on State 76.