Sussex residents crowded the Quad/Graphics room at the Wednesday evening for the village’s fourth public meeting on the Main Street reconstruction project, mostly due to .
More than 50 residents attended the first of three consecutive meetings to share their opinions on the suggested construction plans. Ryan Amtmann, the project manager, first gave a short presentation about the history of the project, battling the sound of murmurs from citizens unable to wait to share their opinions.
And the murmurs apparently reached the right ears. Trustees Tim Dietrich and Pat Tetzlaff said they plan on talking with the Village Board Tuesday to stress discontinuing the roundabout idea, according to the Sussex Sun. President Greg Goetz said he wants to wait until the meeting's reports are finished before officially deciding, and he doesn't expect them to be finished by Tuesday.
Tim Dietrich and Pat Tetzlaff said they plan on talking with the Village Board Tuesday to stress discontinuing the roundabout idea.
Large easels lined the walls of the room with multiple renderings of suggested designs sitting on them. Before Amtmann finished his presentation so residents could examine the designs, he stressed one thing.
“The most important stakeholder in this project is you,” Amtamnn said. “This project wouldn’t be a success if the village didn’t have a process in place to hear how you feel about this project… When you give us your comments, it’s not going in one ear and out the other. It’s getting written down.”
The residents quickly dispersed throughout the room to look at the renderings, write down their own comments to turn in, or to share their comments with project officials. The room even had two laptops with animated traffic showing how a roundabout intersection would work.
In total, the design team presented four different concepts to explore:
The first option is maintaining the same width of the roadway. The green space, or grassy area, on each side stays the same, as does the parking availability. This option is basically what Main Street already looks like. However, that means there would be the same problems with backups when people need to turn left.
The second option is to create a space in the middle of the road where cars can pull into to make a left turn without backing up traffic. Parking availability would remain the same and backups would be far less frequent, but the green space would be reduced by five feet on each side of the road to make room for the center turn lane.
Traffic signals are the first option, but the project engineers say they’re far less efficient than roundabouts. Also, efficiency can only get worse as the town grows, and the designers are planning for up to 25 years into the future. Traffic lights also allow for higher traveling speeds, meaning less safety. Also, while it’ll be less expensive at first, officials say traffic lights require a lot more maintenance and electricity to run.
Roundabouts are the second option, and while , project engineers say they’ll substantially improve traffic flow, especially in the future. It’s a continuous flow of cars rather than a lot of stop-and-go, and because they’re bulky, roundabouts will naturally reduce traffic speeds. And while they cost more upfront, there’s very minimal maintenance.
The first option is to have a grassy, green space between the sidewalk and the road, much like the sidewalks most subdivisions have. This type of sidewalk has a lower initial cost, provides a buffer between traffic and pedestrians and also gives the village a place to pile snow.
The second option is to have the sidewalk concrete stretch all the way to the curb, much like sidewalks in downtown Milwaukee. While there will be a much bigger sidewalk to be more pedestrian friendly, this type of sidewalk costs more upfront, and there’s no place to pile snow meaning there will be additional snow removal costs.
Silver Spring Drive Realignment
A roundabout at this intersection could mean a clean, 90-degree angle at the corner of Silver Spring Drive and Main Street may not be necessary because the circular flow of traffic. That means a new road wouldn’t have to be constructed, cutting down on costs and avoiding the disturbance of the houses to the south. However, a new road could also be built to create a more traditional intersection, but still with a roundabout.
Traffic lights would mean a new road would need to be constructed to create a 90-degree intersection. This would provide all the necessary turning movements residents have been quick to demand at that intersection. While the new road would give Sussex some redevelopment opportunities, it would cost more.
What are Residents Saying?
After talking with multiple residents, it still doesn't sound like anyone was happy with the idea of roundabouts.
A handful of people complained about safety, saying they were worried about their children who walked to school or frequently rode their bikes on Main Street. Without cross signals to indicate when it’s safe to walk, many parents weren’t interested.
In addition, not only was the owner of Piggly Wiggly, Dennis Lipofski, , but he was also worried about the store’s semi trucks.
“The new roundabout will be cutting into the front of the parking lot at ,” Lipofski said. “Delivery trucks will probably be able to get in, but when these new designs show the removal of my east exit, the trucks might have to make a U-turn to get out. It almost sounds impossible.”
"I say they widen the road and just put the left-turn lane all the way up Main Street. It would probably solve a majority of these traffic ‘problems.’”
And Main Street homeowners like Rick Vodicka really weren’t happy with the designs. Vodicka said he probably drives on the street more than any other resident considering he not only lives on it, but works at Quad/Graphics.
“I live on Main Street, and they just put in a boulevard in front of my house so I have to do a U-turn half the time I want to get in my driveway,” Vodicka said. “And now this is just a joke. I say they widen the road and just put the left-turn lane all the way up Main Street. It would probably solve a majority of these traffic ‘problems.’”
However, traffic isn’t the only reason for the reconstruction project. Village officials and project designers also stress things like the beatification of downtown Sussex and making it more pedestrian friendly to attract vibrant new businesses.
But to some, even that explanation couldn’t justify the project.
“We don’t need additional shops or businesses anywhere on Main Street,” said resident Chris Hayes. “And there’s no traffic problem.”
Sussex is expecting to determine the construction costs by mid 2012 so officials can move forward and begin to budget throughout the upcoming years. Construction is still slated to start in 2015.
Editor's Note: This story was updated with new information from the village trustees at 9 a.m. on Thursday.