As public opinion – and controversy – swirls around the Foxconn Technology Group’s planned manufacturing complex in southwestern Mount Pleasant, work continues on a number of infrastructure improvements that surround the project. Among the most massive efforts is the widening and improvements to Highway KR. As County KR serves as the dividing line between Racine and Kenosha counties, the coming changes will impact residents of both municipalities.
Planned Phase 2 improvements—of which there will be many—include dealing with railroad rights-of-way, flowing creeks, bridges, pedestrian paths and private driveways. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) recently issued a massive document designed to address the next phase of the project, which should get underway next year. Following are questions and answers taken from the document.
1. Who has the final determination and decision on the preferred alternative, WisDOT or the Counties?
A: WisDOT has the authority for design under The Jurisdictional Transfer agreement, however, WisDOT is working closely with and looking for agreement with both Racine and Kenosha Counties on the final determination of the preferred alternative.
2. When will construction start?
A: Work related to County KR, between County H and Old Green Bay Road, is proposed to be let in July 2020 with completion by the end of 2022.
3. Are there any plans for County KR east of Old Green Bay Road?
A: The Amendment to SEWRPC’s Vision 2050 Transportation Plan includes improving County KR between Old Green Bay Road and WIS 32 to a four-lane improved roadway. However, no improvements are currently planned for County KR between Old Green Bay Road and WIS 32. Any improvements to County KR east of Old Green Bay Road will be determined by Racine and Kenosha Counties.
4. How does the recent news regarding Foxconn affect the project?
A: Recent news regarding the Foxconn development does not affect the project because the project purpose is not solely based on the Foxconn project. The purpose of the project is to upgrade the County KR infrastructure to safely and efficiently handle projected traffic volumes anticipated from all local economic development activities occurring in the project area, not just Foxconn, and to provide a safe and well-connected transportation corridor that serves the communities in Racine County and Kenosha County. Prior to the Amendment to SEWRPC’s Vision 2050 Transportation Plan (to reflect the Foxconn and Wisconn Valley Science and Technology Park development) the Plan indicated that the right of way to accommodate a four-lane improved roadway be reserved for County KR between I-94 and WIS 32. The project is compatible with the Eastern Racine County Transportation Task Force, comprised of representatives from Racine County, Mount Pleasant, Caledonia and Sturtevant, that recommends the widening of County KR to improve connectivity to I-94, improve access for workers and improve east-west travel times.
5. What about the north bypass option?
A: A bypass alternative proposed by local residents would create a new roadway alignment to the north of the existing County KR from 90th Street to WIS 11 and downtown Racine. With input from Racine and Kenosha Counties, WisDOT determined to not pursue this bypass alternative. This decision is based on evaluation of several factors, including environmental impacts, engineering and project costs. Also, the bypass alternative would not meet the purpose and need for the project because it only addresses mobility to Racine and would not address mobility to the City of Kenosha and other Kenosha County communities.
6. Can more land be utilized on the north side of County KR to lessen the impact on the south side?
A: The proposed alignment is optimized to minimize impacts to properties, wetlands, floodplains, railroad grade separation crossing angle (skewed bridge, constructability, cost, etc.). There aren’t any relocations on the south side with the current proposed alignment. All five relocations are on the north side and further shifts north may require even more.
7. Why is the roadway being designed for a 45 MPH speed limit?
A: This is a multi-part answer. 1.) Traffic flows more efficiently and safely when vehicles move uniformly at the highest reasonable speed. 2.) The Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices recommends setting the posted speed limits near the 85th percentile speed. The 85th percentile speed is the speed that 85 percent of drivers travel at or below and reflects the collective judgment of the vast majority of drivers as to a reasonable speed for given traffic and roadway conditions. 3.) A four-lane divided roadway with an alignment such as County KR is anticipated to have an 85th percentile speed near 45 MPH. 4.) It is important to note that setting speed limits lower than 85th percentile speed does not encourage compliance with the posted speed limit and can often times result in a greater speed differential in traffic and greater potential for crashes. 5.) The improved four-lane divided roadway will be better equipped to safely handle the 45 MPH posted speed limit compared to the existing two-lane configuration of County KR.
8. Why does the project extend east of Old Green Bay Road and not end at WIS 31?
A: The number of through lanes on County KR needs to be carried through each intersection so through vehicles have a receiving lane on the opposite side of the intersections. A distance of about 2,000 feet is required to safely transition a roadway from four to two lanes and left and right-turn lanes are needed to a certain length at both WIS 31 and Old Green Bay Road. The County KR intersections with WIS 31 and Old Green Bay Road are about 1,400 feet apart and the transition from four lanes to two lanes and the turn lane storage do not fit, therefore the four lanes need to be carried through the Old Green Bay Road intersection and the transition from four lanes to two lanes will occur east of there.
See the ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT Package provided at an earlier public meeting
9. Why isn’t there a traffic signal proposed at 56th Avenue?
A: The project does not include traffic signals at 56th Avenue because the intersection currently does not meet traffic signal warrants.
10. Does the preferred alternative provide for transit?
A: The project will accommodate the commuter bus proposed in SEWRPC’s amended VISION 2050 regional transportation plan. The proposed urban roadway, which includes new bridges over the Canadian Pacific and Union Pacific railroad corridors, is more conducive to transit service than the existing rural roadway because it will be improved to handle the anticipated travel demand, allowing transit vehicles to operate efficiently, and it will provide pedestrian and bicycle facilities (shared-use paths).
11. Are there any noise walls proposed?
A: No. Noise level computer modeling indicates that 23 residences would be exposed to Leq noise levels that approach or exceed the impact criteria of 67dBA Leq. [EDITOR’S NOTE: Leq is the preferred method to describe sound levels that vary over time.] The 23 residences would be exposed to peak noise levels of 66 to 68 dBA Leq. Traffic noise mitigation is not feasible, however, since all 23 residences have driveway access to County KR. To be effective, noise barriers must be solid with no gaps. Other methods to mitigate noise impacts, including alignment shifts, restricting truck traffic, and using berms as sound barriers are not practical. The results of the analysis are presented on EA Factor Sheet D-3, Pages 3 through 5.
12. What is the height of the wall east of the UPRR railroad tracks on the south side of the roadway?
A: The proposed retaining wall height varies from 2 feet to 30 feet.
13. Why is the proposed Pike River bridge so much longer and will this cause increased flooding downstream?
A: The existing box culvert that conveys the Pike River was designed to overtop for floods greater than the 5-year frequency. The proposed bridge and roadway profile are designed to convey the 100-year flow without overtopping the roadway. The proposed bridge with no roadway over topping will pass the same 100-year flow as the existing box culvert plus road over top does today.
14. How will I access my driveway?
A: All driveways will have, at a minimum, right-in and right-out access. b. Left turn access will be provided as follows: i. From County H to 90th Street – TBD – Racine and Kenosha County are evaluating median opening access locations. ii. From 90th Street to the UPRR – TBD – Racine and Kenosha County are evaluating median opening access locations. iii. From UPRR to 56th Avenue – The preferred median access option in the EA is a full raised median with no access. Racine and Kenosha Counties have both indicated their support for EA option 3, a Two Way Left Turn Lane (TWLTL). iv. From 56th Avenue to Old Green Bay Road – right-in and right-out only. Left turns will only occur at 56th Avenue, WIS 31 and Old Green Bay Road. v. East of Old Green Bay Road – East of 43rd Avenue won’t have a raised median.
15. Will there be bike or pedestrian accommodations on County KR?
A: It is proposed that a 10-foot-wide asphalt shared-use path be built as follows: 1. Both sides (of County KR) between the I-94 East Frontage Road and 90th Street 2. North side between 90th Street and Vicksburg Drive (east of Old Green Bay Road) 3. South side between 56th Avenue and WIS 31 (replacing the existing path)
16. Who do I contact regarding a potential acquisition of my property?
A: If you live on the north side of County KR in the Village of Mount Pleasant, contact Julie Anderson, Racine County Director of Public Works, at 262-886-8440. If you live on the south side of County KR in the Village of Somers, please contact Clement Abongwa, Director/Commissioner Kenosha County Division of Highways, at 262-653-1870.
17. What is going to happen to the existing pedestrian bridge over the Pike River?
A: The existing pedestrian bridge over the Pike River will be salvaged. Kenosha County has plans to relocate/reuse it at another location.
18. What is being done to protect the wetlands and woodlands along County KR?
A: WisDOT is minimizing impacts by maintaining County KR improvements along the existing roadway alignment. Impacts are further minimized by using curb and gutter drainage instead of open drainage ditches to reduce the roadway footprint. The design also uses steeper side slopes through wetland areas to further reduce impacts. Unavoidable wetland impacts will be mitigated at a replacement ratio that will be determined in coordination between WisDOT and DNR in accordance with their Wetland Mitigation Banking guidelines. The eastern portion of the project is within a high potential zone for the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee (RPBB), a federally endangered species. To minimize potential impact to the RPBB, WisDOT is replanting disturbed areas with a pollinator friendly seed mix in the RPBB High Potential Zone and limiting tree clearing during overwintering months. WisDOT also coordinated with the village of Mount Pleasant and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to identify measures to avoid and minimize impacts in the Pike River Restoration Area, located along the Pike River, north of County KR.
WisDOT will use a seed mix similar to that used in the Pike River restoration area to restore disturbed areas post construction. The Corps of Engineers concluded the proposed work is consistent with the original intent of the Pike River restoration project and the adverse impacts to the ecological functions of the project are minimal and mitigated to the extent practicable. The Village of Mount Pleasant concurred with the Corps of Engineers’ determination that the project will cause minimal floodplain and ecological impacts to the restoration project along the Pike River. WisDOT will continue coordination with the village to refine project design in the Pike River Restoration Area.
19. What are the next steps in the approval process?
A: At the end of the document availability period, the project team began compiling, reviewing and considering all public hearing testimony received on the Environmental Assessment. This input will assist the project team in working with Racine and Kenosha Counties to select the preferred alternative. Upcoming milestones in completing the engineering and environmental study for the County KR – Phase 2 project include: i. Public comment period on Environmental Assessment ended March 7, 2019. ii. Review public hearing comments and finalize the decision with Racine and Kenosha Counties on the preferred alternative in the spring of 2019. iii. Final engineering and right of way acquisitions may begin in the spring of 2019 and continue to early spring of 2020. iv. Construction could start as early as late summer 2020 and will continue through 2021 and 2022.