The idea of a new bypass routing drivers around Hortonville’s Main Street has village residents fearing a future of empty storefronts and dying businesses.
“The last thing a small town wants is to get forgotten by the bypass,” said Traci Martens, vice president of the Hortonville Area Chamber of Commerce.
Federal agencies on Friday signed off on a plan for a new, four-lane Highway 15 that would stretch between New London and Greenville, northwest of Appleton.
The existing main route between the communities takes drivers through Hortonville’s downtown area, but the project would create a bypass north of the business district.
The bypass worries village residents because there would be no way to get on or off the highway in Hortonville, said J. Everett Mitchell, village administrator. The planned roundabouts on the east and west edges of the community would force drivers to follow local roads to reach Hortonville’s Main Street, as Highway 15 is known in the downtown area.
“I know their goal is ultimately to assist those people who are just going through, passing either to the west or the east,” Mitchell said. “I don’t know if that should always be at the expense of the ones who are here.”
The village requested the bypass plans include an interchange at Nash Street that would give drivers access to Hortonville’s business district.
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation rejected the village’s request for a bypass interchange at Nash Street because of the proximity to the two roundabouts, topographic constraints and effects on traffic patterns, according to the Highway 15 environmental impact statement, which is the main planning document for the project.
Mitchell said the village would continue pushing for the interchange.
Kim Rudat, WisDOT communications manager, said the department would only respond to questions in writing.
Studies for the project found that most drivers who pass through Hortonville on Main Street do not stop, said Mike Hendrick, Outagamie County planning director.
Most drivers are commuting from homes in western communities to jobs in the Fox Cities, he said. The bypass could help downtown businesses by rerouting commuters and easing trips for people who are heading to stores and restaurants in Hortonville, he said.
The bypass also could force Hortonville to change its development pattern, said Jim Schlies, vice president of economic development for the Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce, Appleton.
Hortonville has most of its businesses along Main Street. With much of the Fox Valley’s new growth occurring west in communities such as Hortonville, development may have to shift to other parts of the village, Hendrick said.
“Some of that is dependent on how they work with adjacent communities,” he said. “Some of it is going to depend on how they plan for it. Are they going to allow for commercial development on the outskirts of town?”
Construction of the bypass is probably years away, Hendrick said, and depends on the state and federal governments approving money for it.
Martens said many of Hortonville’s Main Street businesses are gas stations, coffee shops and convenience stores that cater to drivers. About 17,000 cars pass through each day, she said, but only 2,700 people live in the village. If drivers are rerouted around the village, she said, Hortonville will become invisible.
“The proposed bypass significantly diminishes Hortonville from a visibility standpoint,” Martens said. “You could completely pass by and not even see it.”