Calhoun Road: a holistic approach is needed
I believe the time has come to stop the Calhoun project now and pause to reassess the needs and direction our city is heading for. We should look at road widening in a more holistic manner than just one section at a time. Please consider that most of our main roadways, those that are the major north/south and east/west roads will need some sort of improvement in the near future. This time it is districts 6 & 7 that are affected; next time it could be your district. If memory serves me correctly, Barker Road was slated for a widening and addition of a round-about. Alderman Ponto pleaded for his district, to spare them the unwanted improvement. The plan was scrapped.
Are we prepared to develop and widen all of the major roads to the excessive extent of the current Calhoun plan? Do the taxpayers want to make this a priority or are there other community needs more important to the residents than wider roads? Our recent city survey included a question on schools which are not a city expense but are the most costly to the taxpayer. An overwhelming 72.5% of surveyed residents placed maintaining the quality of schools at a 4 & 5 on the priority scale. I do not see how the taxpayers will be able to improve the high schools and all of our major roads to the expensive extent of Calhoun south. Therefore we should proceed prudently.
Traffic alone does not seem to be the criteria for project prioritization. Many major roads, such as North Avenue, have much higher traffic volume levels over what the roadways were designed to accommodate. Yet these roads have not been given the priority that Calhoun south has. Some of our roads, such as the Mooreland and Bluemound intersection, currently have an “F” rating by the DOT, yet this alone doesn’t stop more traffic producing development from currently being added to this already failing intersection. The DOT warned that even with adding an additional westbound turn lane from Mooreland, the intersection would still fail. Traffic levels on Calhoun Road are not at these excessive levels. So, if traffic alone is not the driving force, why not postpone this project?
There is no question that Calhoun south needs repaving, but does it really need doubling in size? The current price tag of $11million is a hefty chunk for taxpayers to absorb. Engineering has stated that we need to spend this because a simple repaving would be wasting taxpayer money. Grisa commented to a resident, “Building a two lane Calhoun Road for a short time would not be a prudent investment of public resources since widening would still need to be done later at much more expensive cost...”
I really do not understand this logic: he is saying we need to spend $11million now for a road that will last 20 some years, but whose capacity is not needed at the present time. How is this saving us money? (In our houshold, we call that Lucy Ricardo math!) Instead, we could spend about $1.5 million now to repave with some turn lane improvements, which will last about 8 years (present engineering costs included). To simply repave now would buy us time and save us the cost of the I-94 bridge replacement too. During those 8 years we will know what impact the improved Greenfield Ave. (HWY 59) and the completed Brookfield Road will have on Calhoun south. Most importantly we will know what development is approved for VK’s Ruby/WTMJ property. To me, this is the solution that is a “prudent investment of public resources.”
The current plan to widen Calhoun Road south of Blue Mound should be reassessed before proceeding any further with the project. The full impact of the current proposal and other future projects should be reconsidered. We need to look at this from the perspective of how would an expansion of this scope affect every district? How will taxpayers pay for the accumulative costs and interest charges of improving all of these roads to this extent? We should know this before proceeding.