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Parkway project stalled in political debate

Paul Snyder
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Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk’s lack of leadership is stalling progress on the North Mendota Parkway project, according to the woman challenging Falk in an April 7 election.

“Had Kathleen Falk had an interest in the project, she would have found the money for it,” said Falk’s challenger Nancy Mistele. “This thing has been studied since 1997. We need to get it mapped and pick a route. It’s time for us to get it done.”

If finalizing years of planning is so easy, Mistele should have at it, said Falk’s Chief of Staff Topf Wells.

“If candidate Mistele wants to step up to the plate, let her pick a route,” Wells said. “It’s difficult finding a route, and (the North Mendota Parkway Implementation Oversight Committee) has tried to move in a consensus fashion that recognizes local governments and the concerns of citizens because, if you don’t, then you’ve got a controversial mess.”

Mistele and County Supervisor Eileen Bruskewitz, who is a member of the oversight committee, have criticized Falk following her recommendation the committee reconsider two corridor routes that were dismissed.

“She’s standing in the way,” Mistele said, “and delaying things further.”

But Tom Lynch, a project manager with Madison-based Strand Associates Inc. and leader of the study to identify the best route for the proposed road, said the political battles forming over the lengthy mapping process are overstated and off the mark.

“If anything,” he said, “it’s just a call for more of an effort to put together better documentation and analysis as to why we eliminated (the routes) in the first place.”

The parkway, which would connect areas north of Lake Mendota in Dane County to the Beltline Highway, has been a contentious issue for several years, particularly as it relates to road’s effect on farmland or environmentally sensitive areas.

Although four primary parkway routes are up for debate, Lynch said, the different concerns produced 11 different corridor options.

Wells, who also is a member of the oversight committee, blasted critics who say Falk is trying to delay the project.

“It’s ridiculous and a miserable campaign lie,” he said. “There’s no apparent route that doesn’t pose genuine problems. You’ve got problems from feeding traffic into Middleton to impacting farm operations to trying to hit as few existing driveways as possible.

“Then there’s the argument that we should bag all this and just wait for the state to expand Highway 19, but that doesn’t affect the area we’re concerned about.”

Mistele said, if elected, she would press the committee to map a route, try to find money for the project and then try to schedule a start day.

But the project could cost tens of millions of dollars, and Dane County has not yet found the money, Lynch said.

“There’s no funding available,” he said, “and there are no plans to build this road any time soon.”

That could be attributed to committee debate, but, Wells said, it has nothing to do with stall tactics.

“We’re not stupid,” he said. “Everyone’s tired. No one thought we’d be in the tenth or eleventh meeting still looking at this many routes. If there was an obvious choice, we’d have picked it by now.”

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