No North Mendota Parkway: Stop Destruction of Homes, Businesses, and Farms!
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The North Mendota Parkway is a proposed freeway cutting around the north side of Lake Mendota. Many local government officials, particularly those in Westport who do not live in the path, have been pushing for completion of the project since the early 1990s. However, it has numerous flaws and is a waste of our money and time that could be used elsewhere.
- It would only BARELY reduce travel times.
Currently, it takes 9 minutes traveling at 55 mph to cross the area at a regular time, and at rush hour, it takes around 10-13 minutes depending on the day. If the freeway were constructed, it would only reduce these times to about 7 and 11 minutes. This makes no sense for spending millions on land acquisition and construction to cut 3 minutes off someone's commute and eliminate 3 traffic signals.
- The proposed route would split numerous large farms and destroy a number of homes.
If the chosen routes are put into place, a number of large, century-old dairy farms would be split up and a number of residents have stated they will sell to developers if that happens. Numerous residents would have a four lane highway only a few feet from their front door, and would have to move away due to the rapid decrease in property values. The farm pictured above would be flattened if the freeway was approved.
- There are only three things slowing traffic down. These three things are: the lack of a County K / US 12 interchange, short left turn lane and arrows at County Q, and the stoplight at County M.
The first thing we could do is construct a County K / US 12 diamond interchange. The road would be four lanes for about 500 feet so the merging traffic has its own lane. Then, a new bridge could be constructed over Spring Creek to create a longer left turn lane for travelers heading to Waunakee on County Q. Currently, the turn lane only holds only a couple of large SUVs or a few smaller vehicles. A left turn lane holding about 10 could be constructed at minimal cost. Finally, the light at County M could be replaced with a roundabout with bypass lanes, a new bridge could be constructed over Sixmile Creek to have four lanes, and County M could be widened to four lanes from County K to Willow Road. The road does not have a significant amount of traffic, it just has large bursts of it due to intersection control, which creates backups. The stoplight experiences congestion because both roads have a similar amount of traffic. The majority of the traffic is using the road to get to Waunakee via County Q and not around the city, so the longer turn lane would improve traffic flow. An arrow is also needed for westbound County K traffic heading to southbound County Q trying to travel to Madison. This increases backups significantly during morning rush hour.
- The freeway is a waste of money, time, and manpower, which could be used for other infrastructure.
The only suggestions we would have would be to improve some intersections and improve visibility in some places. Motorists using the road would rather have a two lane, 55 mph road, than a four lane, 30 mph road that will increase travel times. Instead, funding should be focused on improving the County K / North Shore Bay Drive stoplight intersection. With the current shoestring regional and state transportation budgets, wasting money is not an option to keep our road infrastructure safe. The DOT recently wasted 200 million dollars on a Baraboo bypass, and constructed the state's highest bridge (160 feet) on a road that experienced little congestion, due to the use of I-90/94 nearby. There would also be more road maintenance for Westport and Springfield to maintain without new tax base to fund it. Highways are supposed to have traffic on them, and officials make a major deal about it if you have to wait 3 minutes longer during rush hour. This is the case on most arterial roads in Madison, and the same concept applies here. People simply need to have patience. There are plenty of roads in worse condition in the county that should have a higher priority, such as County V east of DeForest, County BB, County I, County G from Verona to the Green County line, and County F north of Mount Horeb.
- While the route is proposed to "go to the Interstate", it is actually supposed to stop at Highway 113.
The primary reason for this is that Cherokee Marsh and the airport are sitting in the way. As previously stated, the majority of traffic is trying to get to Waunakee via County Q or the Mary Lake neighborhood via County Q or Woodland Drive, and not Madison's north side. The amount of traffic on K and M is fairly similar, which is the cause for the long backups and slow light changes.
- It will only increase urban sprawl.
Currently, the area designated for the freeway in the county's future land use plan is as a community separation zone and farmland preservation. With a new freeway, that would mean more people interested in living close to it, and the whole idea of preservation would not exist, leading to the full demise of Westport. Bulldozers can destroy hundreds of years worth of farmland topsoil in minutes, and takes Native American artifacts, such as arrowheads, with it. The freeway should have been constructed in the current location of the Bishop's Bay development, along the north side of Northlake, and crossing the farmland between Northside and Middleton Ridge along Graber Pond. We would support that alignment (if officials choose to proceed) because it would not affect any homes, farms, or businesses.
Similar sized cities to Madison have light rail transit, like in Denver. While a larger city, congestion there on highways was reduced 40% during rush hour. Madison could use the same concept using State Street, existing or abandoned rail corridors, or along existing freeways or other infrastructure. If a line with minimal stops was constructed from Middleton to Sun Prairie via downtown, the NMP would make even less sense. Tax incentives could also be given to people who, i.e. work on the West Side and live in Middleton, or on the east side and live in Sun Prairie, or so forth. Currently, we have people who live in Sun Prairie and work on the west side, or Middleton residents working east side jobs. We need to give companies tax incentives to operate where the majority of their workers live, or the opposite. This would also decrease existing congestion.
As area residents, we feel that the traffic amount does not suffice for a freeway, but agree that intersection improvement is needed. Together, with the support of North Mendota residents and fellow county residents, we can end the monetary waste known as the North Mendota Parkway and make other improvements. Creative thinking for an improvement that will affect fewer people is key.
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