By Brandi Makuski
Leaders in the Village of Whiting say they don’t plan to wait for the county to address safety concerns on County Hwy. HH.
The village has been unsure of how to handle complaints over safety concerns along the county-owned road, which is one of two arterial roads inside the village. County Hwy. HH is also home to two pedestrian and bicyclist crossings: one along the Green Circle Trail, the other a school crossing at the School St. intersection — which the village has been unable to find a crossing guard for.
The Whiting Public Works and Parks Committee discussed several options on Sept. 27, to include purchasing an RRFB (a rectangular rapid flash beacon), a “Yield for Pedestrians” sign or an electronic, solar-powered radar speed sign, similar to the mobile speed sign trailer used by the Portage Co. Sheriff’s Office.
“We got feedback from the Portage Co. Highway Commissioner that he probably would not approve [an RRFB],” said Bill Taugner, chairman of the Public Works and Parks Committee.
Village President Paul Stroik the RRFB is currently being tested in other areas of the state for its effectiveness. Currently, an RRFB is in use at the corner of Franklin and Division streets in Stevens Point, and depending on which department head you ask, the reaction to its effectiveness has been mixed. That flash beacon cost the city about $16,000, which was split with UW-Stevens Point because the intersection is heavily used by college students.
Stroik said the layout of Hwy. HH isn’t right for the flash beacon under state or federal road guidelines.
“We would have to get permission from the Federal Highway Association, first of all,” Stroik said. “And because this is a county highway, the county would have a say in the matter. And I don’t see that going any place.”
The “Yield” sign would cost the village about $400, but that decision was tabled because committee members had concerns for the effectiveness and security of the sign.
“And because it’s a four-lane road, you have one car that might stop, but there’s another car in the other lane that might not recognize there’s somebody crossing, so the sign wouldn’t do any good in that respect,” Taugner said.
The committee voted to table purchasing the sign indefinitely.
The committee instead approved moving forward with the possible purchase of the message board, which is designed to be attached to a light pole or other roadway sign. Village leaders said they can’t afford to pay for a traffic study on the road — which can cost more than $20,000 — but the new digital sign unit could be programmed to collect traffic-related statistics, which is something Stroik said is a necessary step before the county will pay for or approve any changes on the roadway.
“This all came about because of the safety concerns at [Hwy.] HH and School St.,” Stroik said. “My concern is, if we purchase this item, what’s the next step? Are we going to have to buy more lighting? That’s my concern.”
Stroik also said he understands people are concerned, but he said a lot of safety issues on the roadway are, in his opinion, “self-created.”
“I think there’s this feeling that once you enter a crosswalk, everybody must automatically stop,” Stroik said. “That’s not the case.”
“The Village of Whiting cannot be everything to everybody. Whatever we decide, somebody’s not going to be happy,” said committee member Carol Lepak, who added she believes residents — in particular, parents who have young children — should take responsibility for themselves when they cross the road.
“It’s not the only dangerous road in the county, or in the vicinity,” Lepak said.
The new sign comes with an option to collect traffic data, to include vehicle counts and average speed on the road. It’s an option Stroik said the county has already said it would likely approve for installation along the roadway.
The possible purchase will be up for consideration by the village’s Finance Committee in October.