Dane County Executive Kathleen Falkâ€™s lack of leadership is stalling progress on the North Mendota Parkway project, according to the woman challenging Falk in an April 7 election.
â€œHad Kathleen Falk had an interest in the project, she would have found the money for it,â€ said Falkâ€™s challenger Nancy Mistele. â€œThis thing has been studied since 1997. We need to get it mapped and pick a route. Itâ€™s time for us to get it done.â€
If finalizing years of planning is so easy, Mistele should have at it, said Falkâ€™s Chief of Staff Topf Wells.
â€œIf candidate Mistele wants to step up to the plate, let her pick a route,â€ Wells said. â€œItâ€™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 donâ€™t, then youâ€™ve got a controversial mess.â€
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.
â€œSheâ€™s standing in the way,â€ Mistele said, â€œand delaying things further.â€
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.
â€œIf anything,â€ he said, â€œitâ€™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.â€
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 roadâ€™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.
â€œItâ€™s ridiculous and a miserable campaign lie,â€ he said. â€œThereâ€™s no apparent route that doesnâ€™t pose genuine problems. Youâ€™ve got problems from feeding traffic into Middleton to impacting farm operations to trying to hit as few existing driveways as possible.
â€œThen thereâ€™s the argument that we should bag all this and just wait for the state to expand Highway 19, but that doesnâ€™t affect the area weâ€™re concerned about.â€
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.
â€œThereâ€™s no funding available,â€ he said, â€œand there are no plans to build this road any time soon.â€
That could be attributed to committee debate, but, Wells said, it has nothing to do with stall tactics.
â€œWeâ€™re not stupid,â€ he said. â€œEveryoneâ€™s tired. No one thought weâ€™d be in the tenth or eleventh meeting still looking at this many routes. If there was an obvious choice, weâ€™d have picked it by now.â€