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Town residents wary of Waukesha bypass

Planners for a new Waukesha bypass are considering options for connecting the Interstate 94-Meadowbrook Road interchange with Highway 59-County Road X. (Map by Rick Benedict/The Daily Reporter)

Planners for a new Waukesha bypass are considering options for connecting the Interstate 94-Meadowbrook Road interchange with Highway 59-County Road X. (Map by Rick Benedict/The Daily Reporter)

By Sean Ryan

Planners for a new Waukesha bypass face a daunting task: move traffic — including heavy trucks — more quickly without disturbing town residents’ quiet lifestyles.

Waukesha County has dedicated $2 million to plan the bypass, which would run on the western edge of the city of Waukesha and connect the Interstate 94-Meadowbrook Road interchange with Highway 59-County Road X.

Planning began this week, as a task force of representatives from municipalities and environmental and community groups met to set project goals. Initial priorities included moving traffic more quickly and protecting farms and natural areas.

But residents of the town of Waukesha worry a new road built to handle heavy trucks will bring noise and light, disrupting their pastoral area, said Joe Banske, an organizer for Bypass the Bypass and Save our Town and member of the planning task force.

“We are people that purchased land and purchased a home in an area where we could escape and enjoy the land,” Banske said, “and we are respectful of that area and we enjoy it.”

There are trade-offs with every decision when designing new roads, said Buddy Desai, context sensitive solutions facilitator for CH2M Hill Inc., the engineer Waukesha County hired to design the project. He used the example of large trees in the right-of-way of a proposed new road.

“I’ve worked on projects where the tree is an integral part of the community,” he said, “and the last thing they want to happen is to see that tree go, and then you have to design the road around it.”

Desai said the study will include the option of not building anything. Under an agreement between the state and county, the two can opt to build nothing if the budget exceeds $43.1 million.

Jim White, another member of the planning task force, said he expects competing ideas about the balance between moving traffic quickly and not disrupting residents. He said the task force is a good approach to finding a middle ground.

“Part of the reason to get a group like this together is to get people who will listen to each other,” he said.

The task force is to hold five meetings, with the last scheduled for September. It is working with CH2M Hill to develop the bypass plan, which will be sent to the Waukesha County Board of Supervisors. The board will decide whether to approve the project.

A major challenge will be gaining support from town residents. Banske said heavy trucks that would be using the bypass are noisy and raise safety concerns.

“It’s loud,” he said, “it’s fast and in one way I would say it’s disrespectful to the community because they aren’t a part of the community. When you live there, you are more concerned about speed.”

But trucks will inevitably be allowed to use the bypass, said Gary Evans, project manager for the Waukesha County Department of Public Works.

“It will be designed and built, if built, to accommodate trucks,” he said.

The project will have trouble landing federal and state money if trucks are not permitted. The state and county bypass agreement commits the state to as much as $37.5 million for the project in 2015 and 2016.

Banske said he realizes project planning will be difficult, but he said reasonable people can reach reasonable agreements. His goal is to make sure the residents who live in his neighborhood are heard so that they have a voice in the process, he said, even if they ultimately do not get what they want.

“That’s a very common feeling these days,” Banske said, “that people are just being trampled on by government.”

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