School, municipalities, state going round and round on roundabout

This is a preliminary plan for how a roundabout could look at the entrance/exit to Central High School that the school district would like to build on Highway 83, south of Highway 50.

This is a preliminary plan for how a roundabout could look at the entrance/exit to Central High School that the school district would like to build on Highway 83, south of Highway 50.

The Central High School Board appeared to resolve itself Tuesday to constructing — and paying for — a roundabout intersection configuration where the school’s new entrance/exit will meet Highway 83 south of Highway 50.

But it’s not because the board thinks it is the optimum solution, but rather that outside pressures appear to make it the only way to get the new road through the campus connected to the highway.

“We support it,” board President Mary Ellen Pearsall said of the roundabout, “but we don’t have the money. That wasn’t in our plans.”

The School Board originally favored a conventional intersection at the spot with traffic signal controls. The state Department of Transportation, however, says the volume of traffic at the spot — which is a state highway — does not warrant signals. State officials have pushed for a roundabout, which also is favored by Paddock Lake officials.

“Our backs are against the wall,” Pearsall said. “If we don’t do a roundabout, we can’t connect to the highway.”

A major feature of the school grounds upgrade currently under construction was a road leading out to Highway 83. School officials have said the additional entrance/exit will allow better and less congested traffic flow on and off the property than the current single entrance onto Highway 50 at 246th Avenue.

The school has an estimate for constructing the roundabout with a cost of $488,961. But the specifications for that estimate have not been approved by the DOT. If the state required changes, for example a larger roundabout, the project could be even more expensive, said Central district administrator Scott Pierce.

The state has agreed that if the roundabout is built, the state will absorb the cost of improvements at the Highway 50/83/75 intersection that the state formerly was going to hold the school responsible for funding.

How the school might fund the roundabout is not clear at this point. Cost overruns in the overall project funded by the 2008 referendum mean there is no money there to tap into. At another time in the meeting, the board did discuss the possibility of a revenue limit exemption for energy efficiencies. Pierce pointed out the board has recently installed over $400,000 in improved heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment and controls. If the district won the exemption, it could be allowed to exceed the state revenue limit on a one-time basis in the amount of the energy efficiencies. District officials estimate that if the whole $400,000 plus was approved for the exemption, the reulting one-time increase in tax levy would be about $19 per $100,000 of assessed valutation for district property taxpayers.

The board agreed to pursue getting the energy efficiencies exemption.

Pierce also said state Rep. Samantha Kerkman has said there might be stimulus funds available for the the project, but that Salem and Paddock Lake officials disagree. Agreements for the property owner to the west of the proposed roundabout — a commercial developer — might also prove dificult, Pierce said.

The Salem Town Board on Monday also discussed the roundabout issue; the intersection actually lies within the town. Offiicals expressed a preferance for a traffic signal, but acknowledged there appears to be little chance of getting that approved.

“I don’t think the state’s going to listen to us,’ said Supervisor Patrick O”Connell.

“My personal opinion is I don’t like roundabouts …,” said Salem town Chairman Linda Valentine.



  1. Lorelai says:

    It appears there was a lack of planning and some important details were overlooked. First the football field and now the issue with the roundabout.

  2. Chris Gustafson says:

    Darts to WCHS for NOT doing their own homework on at least two counts! WCHS could of had a pre-conceptual planning meeting prior to the 2008 Referendum with WisDOT Engineer Kurt Fluriel in Waukesha who is in charge of eveything south of highway 50. Plus, WCHS would have known soil borings were warranted prior to earthmoving activities had they referenced the map panels for that area from the USDA Soil Survey of Kenosha and Racine Counties, Wisconsin which details soil bearing capacities and soil limitations.

    In the past, prior to the installation of the signalized intersection at CTH AH & STH83 by Salem Grade School & the Salem Community Library, Mr. Fluriel had told me that the WisDOT will not allow any more new access drives or roads off of STH 83 south of Hwy 50 because this segment of 83 is known as “Death Alley”.

    The state did a six-year study (1990?) of all reportable accidents from Hwy 50 to the Stateline along STH 83 of all pedestrian/bicyclists/motorcycle/motor vehicle/runoff road deaths, private & public property damages and so forth. Mr. Fluriel gave me a copy this study with different colored dots represented each accident, which in turn, I gave to then Town of Salem Chairperson, Shirley Boening. What happened to that study is anyone’s guess, but did it precipitated the widening of STH 83 to allow for safer ped/bike travel outside the white fog line on 83, improved/ enhancing driver site line or Field of View and eliminated additional potential for accidents due to blind driveway access locations by flattening all the hills and knolls to the WI/IL Stateline, and by new right-turn lanes at CTHs “AH”, “C”, and “JF”.

    The WisDOT Traffic Ops engineers also likely had to take into consideration any and all known, preliminary plats of future residential & commercial developements that planned to go in along 83 prior to issuing WCHS a permit to put in a new intersection on 83. WCHS mistakes in this process sheds light on why it is so very important to meet with all key stakeholders prior to drawing conceptual construction plans. Hopefully others will learn from their mistakes.

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