Public invited to sound off Tuesday in the Village of Whiting; petition circulating supporting change
By Brandi Makuski
The public has been invited to a hearing next Tuesday to discuss reducing one of the area’s arterial roadways from a four-lane to a two-lane road.
County officials have proposed reducing County Hwy. HH, also known as McDill Ave., to a two-lane roadway between Olympia Ave. — just east of Ministry Medical’s Hoover Clinic — and the intersection of School St. — a popular pedestrian crossing for students of McDill Elementary.
The public hearing will begin Mat 24 at 5:30 PM at the Village of Whiting Municipal Building, 3600 Water Street.
Portage Co. Highway Commissioner Nathan Check said no final decision on changing the roadway has yet been made, but officials in Whiting have already discussed the possibility of adopting the county’s bicycle and pedestrian plan, with plans for a vote next month. That plan calls for bike lanes along Hwy. HH, as well as bicycle parking at transit stops along the roadway.
“It’s being considered right now, but it’s only for discussion at this time,” Check said Monday. “The decision will likely be made at the future highway commission meeting.”
Check said his department receives more than a few complaints about the roadway, to include frequent speeding, pedestrian safety and a roadway that shakes when trucks drive past.
Highway HH is undergoing repaving this week, Check said, something he expects will eliminate the bumps felt by those who live along the road. The project includes milling the top two inches of roadway, resurfacing and repainting lane stripes, he said, but the lanes will remain the same for now.
Check said before the roadway can be reduced, the county will conduct roadway studies to determine how traffic counts and safety can be improved by the change.
Village President Paul Stroik said if the change is approved, it would add bike lanes and center two-way-left-turn-lane (TWLTL) for driveway and cross street access.
“But this is something the county would want public input on,” Stroik said. “But that’s something the village board has no control over; it’s a county road.”
Stroik heard from residents at the village’s May 10 meeting who said they were in favor of the idea, including Susan Lasecki, who said reducing the roadway would better enforce the 25 mph speed limit and enhance overall safety on the road.
“There are 51 homes on that road,” said Lasecki. “There are families with children, there are runners, pedestrians and bicyclists who use the Green Circle Trail…it’s just a matter of time before someone gets hit [by a motorist].”
Lasecki spearheaded an online change.org petition asking residents throughout the community to support the move. The petition currently has 78 supporters and has been submitted to the village and the county.
During 2014’s public hearings on the Bus. 51 remodel in Stevens Point, Check said he heard many argue reducing a roadway to a two-lane would likely not increase safety, but rather decrease it.
“Of course we can’t compare [Highway] HH to Business 51 because they’re two completely difference roadways,” Check said. “But generally, there’s benefits to both types of roadway designs; a two-lane could be found to be safer. But a traffic study will vet some of those things out.”
Check also said the county would need to “be mindful” of the DOT’s Bus. 51 remodel — which runs the entire length of Bus. 51 from south Plover through Minnesota Ave. in Whiting — because the entire HH/Bus. 51 intersection will be reconstructed, extending east on Hwy. HH. By the end of the reconstructed intersection, a McDill Ave. dental office will be history, and the majority of a parking lot for McDill Auto Wrecking Inc. will also be gone, along with at least one home of the north side of Hwy. HH.
The Portage County Highway commissioner will be in attendance on Tuesday to answer questions. The public is encouraged to attend.