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State to build half of key PGA Championship interchange in Kohler

(Map by Rick Benedict/The Daily Reporter)

(Map by Rick Benedict/The Daily Reporter)

By Sean Ryan

An eminent domain lawsuit challenging a proposed Interstate 43 interchange near Kohler has delayed half of the project.

But the other half, an on-ramp on the west side of I-43, is likely to go to Buteyn-Peterson Construction Co. Inc., Sheboygan. The contractor on Tuesday was the only bidder for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation project. Its bid was $670,800.

Jon Kleist, Buteyn-Peterson general manager, said the pending lawsuit is none of his business.

I don’t know exactly what they’re doing there,” he said, “and, like I said, we bid it according to the specs.”

The proposed interchange at Rowe Road would handle increased traffic during the PGA Championship golf tournament Aug. 9-15 at Whistling Straits golf course in Kohler. Construction of the on-ramp project will begin in June, said Michael Berg, WisDOT northeast region director. Berg said the department planned to build the entire interchange this summer, but couldn’t.

An environmentally protected area is on the east side of the highway where the offramp would be built. Federal agents will not let WisDOT build on the protected area while the lawsuit is pending, Berg said. But nothing prevents the department from building on the west side of the highway, he said.

“We basically own it,” Berg said, “free and clear with no contingencies and no conservation easement.”

Andrew and Michelle Van Stelle owned 4.36 acres on the west side of the highway, and Robert and Dorothy Schnell owned 3.87 acres to the east. The state used eminent domain to acquire a combined 8.23 acres of land from them, and they filed the lawsuit to reacquire the land.

If the lawsuit succeeds, the property owners can take back the land and force WisDOT to remove the interchange. Alan Marcuvitz, attorney representing the Van Stelles, said last month that is what his clients will do if successful.

Terence P. Fox, attorney representing the Schnells, said his clients are likely to do the same if WisDOT builds on the property they are seeking to reacquire.

“We would certainly review it at that point in time,” said Fox, a partner in Kummer, Lambert & Fox LLP, Manitowoc. “Alan’s right. The most common thing to do would just be to ask the state to remove the ramp.”

Marcuvitz and the Van Stelles did not respond to calls for comment.

Berg said department officials are confident of winning the lawsuit. The state and Kohler Co., Kohler, are evenly splitting the cost of the interchange work, he said. Berg said he does not know who would pay to remove the ramp if the state loses the lawsuit.

“We’re not looking at that,” he said.

Kleist, who until Tuesday morning was looking at an empty schedule for June, said his only concern is keeping his crews busy. The interchange project near his yards in Sheboygan would keep up to 30 people working, he said.

“We had a hole right in June during the month,” he said, “so it fits us like a glove.”

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