Monday, April 28, 2014

Gruesome Crash Highlights Dangerous, Disputed WI Highway

[updated] Residents on and near Wisconsin State Highway J/164 that runs through Waukesha and Washington Counties have been petitioning, suing-and-winning, organizing and practically begging for a safer, cost-saving lowered speed limit, but the Road-Building/Political Complex has arrogantly stalled and resisted and spent millions to expand the road and keep the speed limit high.

I've been writing about these issues, and the citizens' groups - - WEAL, headquartered in Waukesha County, and the Highway J/164 Coalition, based in Washington County - - which are fighting The Power, as recently as two weeks ago - - and as long ago as this posting from May, 2008:

The latest installment in this blog's continuing series "The Road To Sprawlville" takes us across two Southeastern Wisconsin counties, misguided, as is often the case, by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation's Madison-based Central Office. 
And just when you think that WisDOT and its Central Office (should that read, "Central Committee?") couldn't out-spend or out-shame itself, it carries out a stealthy, breathtakingly arrogant double-cross to show a citizens group in the southeastern Wisconsin heartland who's the boss... 
For several years, WisDOT and thousands of people living on or near Highway J (State Highway 164) have been locked in a dispute about widening a stretch of two-lane blacktop to four lanes, with limited access and a wide median, for about 18 miles... 
Little slows WisDOT, or the traffic its planning (sic) induces, or pares its spending. 
Several sources, including the Highway J Coalition, and State Rep. Don Pridemore, (R-Hartford), said they had received pledges from WisDOT that the speed limit on the highway would be lowered from 55 mph to 45 mph, and a WisDOT-paid consultant recommended the lowering after a study. 
But then, WisDOT quietly went out and found a second consultant to overrule the first. The second consultant - - and isn't it nice to have so much consulting money lying around that you can just keep on shopping and spending until you get the one you like? - - suggested raising the speed limit to 60 mph, so the final decision is a compromise to leave it at 55, and not lower it.
(Here is a link to the file in the federal court case the citizen petitioners had won.)

Now there has been a horrible crash on that very stretch of highway. A young couple was killed, leaving behind five children to be raised without their parents.

Media are covering the story.


Some more information comes to me from the citizens' coalition coordinator, Jeff Gonyo, below. I also posted some of his remarks taken from the second of the April 26 interviews' pdf texts.


For the past 15 years, many citizens in this area have asked the WisDOT to reduce the speed limit to 45 mph.  Based upon past, proven experience (during the time when Highway 164 speed limit was temporarily reduced to 45 mph for five months back in 2000), the number of traffic accidents dropped by nearly 80%!  

However, the WisDOT roadbuilding bureaucrats have refused to lower the speed limit to 45 mph (which would only cost $8,000 to do according to their own estimates) because they need these accident statistics to justify their unnecessary and unwanted $16 million Highway 164 expansion project (which will make matters much worse with even more deadly traffic accidents at higher speeds).  In short, "45 SAVES LIVES!"

Over the weekend, three HJCG members (Terry Margherita, David Radermacher and I) appeared on Fox 6 News to call for the immediate implementation of a 45 mph speed limit on Highway 164 to prevent future tragic accidents like the one on Friday. You can watch our television interviews by clicking on the following links:

1) April 25, 2014 Fox 6 News story where HJCG member Terry Margherita was interviewed in front of her Highway 164 home on Friday which is where the accident occurred --

2) April 26, 2014 Fox 6 News interviews former Washington County Supervisor David Radermacher, and me, supporting a 45 MPH speed limit on Highway 164:

“I have photographs some of these accidents just up the road here right up about two houses up this accident occurred in the 55 mile an hour zone right here right next to the 55 mile an hour sign and it killed the driver of the van,” said Gonyo. 
Gonyo has meticulously cataloged accident after accident that has happened on the highway. Friday’s crash that killed a mother and father of five young children was just the latest in a string of deaths in recent years. 
“Since 2008 we’ve had eight fatalities on this roadway that I know of,” said Gonyo.
Gonyo says he and others would like to see the speed limit drop to 45 mph


CJ said...

Do you have a link to Jeff Gonyo's statements?

James Rowen said...

Will look.

James Rowen said...

TO CJ: I redid the link to include the case file. Hope that works for you.

James Rowen said...

CJ - - Sorry. Responded to the wrong comment. I will add a link to the text of Jeff's remarks.