Hales Corners — Residents along Edgerton Avenue the village are fighting to keep the road from expanding even as the project approaches the bidding process, now only a few weeks away.
More than 50 residents signed a petition opposing the current project and asking for the village and department of public works to find another solution to fix the road's current issues.
Eight feet wider
The current plan would expand Edgerton – which now ranges from 20 to 24 feet wide – to a consistent 30 feet wide with four feet of paved shoulder on each side.
According to Director of Public Works Mike Martin, reconstructing the road entirely, as planned, is the best way to extend the road's life.
"We're following standards that were set forth in a planning document in 1993," Martin said. "It's a question of building as much life into the road as possible. Could you just resurface it? Sure. But because of the age of the road, the stone base that supports the road is at the end of its life.
"(In this plan) we're pushing out the life of that road another 50 to 60 years. We design based on the future, not just today's existing population and today's existing traffic," he added.
Save the trees
But residents' concerns center around the effects of expanding the road, not its longevity.
Widening the road by eight feet would further expand the footprint of the road, adding wider drainage ditches and pushing back utility poles, forcing many trees to be removed.
The village board's environmental committee called a special meeting Jan. 6 to hear concerns residents had about the construction on Edgerton.
Environmental committee chairwoman Delene Hanson wrote a letter to the village board noting several other environmental concerns, such as the increase in water runoff and the presence of petroleum in asphalt.
"Most problematic, though, is the impact that this project will have on our urban forest," Hanson wrote. "The widening itself and the subsequent need to relocate utility poles will result in the removal of an inordinate number of trees. This is especially troubling since a large number of trees in the village are already being removed because of emerald ash borer, and there is no tree planting program in place."
According to Martin, some of the trees on the street are not of superior quality, as many showed signs of effects from emerald ash borer, meaning the infested trees might have to be removed eventually anyway.
He also noted that around the same number of trees would need to be removed in the alternative plans some residents are suggesting.
No need for speed
However, residents are concerned with more than just the trees near the road.
During the village board meeting Jan. 9, multiple residents voiced their opposition to the project, citing a number of concerns about how the project could negatively affect their lives on the street.
In addition to concerns about the environmental impact and total cost of the project, many residents cited speeding as a potential safety hazard, concerned that a smoother, wider road would encourage more speeding.
However, Martin claimed that there was "no good study" to back up this speculation.
Speeding is currently an issue on the road, though.
According to a report compiled by Martin, Hales Corners police gave out 10 citations for speed and five warnings for speed on Edgerton Ave. between Sept. 21 and Oct. 14 2016, when the department was conducting an extra watch.
The extra watch consisted of 45 instances where police were stationed on the road, a response to residents' concerns about excessive speeding there. In these 45 watches, 29 resulted in no violations being observed.
Martin presented a few options for discouraging speeding on the road, such as a speed trailer, but noted that those solutions often become less effective with time.
David Boehm, who lives on the street with his family, also suggested, during public comment, that the wider shoulder could be a liability to the village, if pedestrians or bikers feel encouraged to use the shoulder. (Village officials countered that they never intended the shoulder to be used by pedestrians as part of the plan.)
The board took no action on the issue Jan. 9, because there was no specific approval listed on the agenda.
According to a timeline set by Martin, the village will advertise the project for bids on Jan. 26. Then, on Feb. 16, the public works committee will recommend a bid to the board. The village board would approve a bid March 6, if the timeline remains in place.
The early bidding is meant to draw more favorable rates from contractors, before the Wisconsin Department of Transportation starts bidding out projects for the spring and summer, according to Martin.
However, residents want to feel as if they were "listened to" before the board starts the bidding process.
"I think board has responsibility to legitimately take input before putting that out to bid," said Carla DuPont, a Hales Corners resident living on Allenwood Lane. "I think to do otherwise is to say you made the decision yourself without input from the neighborhood."
To abandon the current plan would mean the construction process would start all over again, Martin said. The village would have to hire an engineering firm again to start a new project basically from scratch, a time-consuming process that would push back the village's bidding opportunity, bringing up the total cost for the project.
In addition to the time crunch, the village has bonded funds and tax levy funding planned for the project, which must be used for the purpose of road construction by the end of August 2018.
At this point, the chances of stopping the project seem slim. However, some residents remain hopeful that the trustees might reconsider the plan for the project.
"Hopefully, someone on the board will have the spark of initiative to say, 'stop this,' " resident Paul Boehm said.