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Highway 15 bypass raises concerns, optimism

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In this artist's rendering of Hortonville looking south, vehicles travel along the proposed State Highway 15 bypass (seen running diagonally from the top left corner). The road running top to bottom is County Trunk M. and visible landmarks include Hortonville schools in the upper center and Commercial Club Park baseball diamonds on the right. Image courtesy of Wisconsin DOT.

Hortonville project may change response times

By Scott Bellile

Following the release of artist renderings of the proposed State Highway 15 bypass, community members say they have mixed feelings about the project’s potential impact on Hortonville.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration released aerial renderings of the State 15 bypass a couple weeks ago. In the images, the bypass is superimposed on satellite images along the route between New London and Greenville.

Two images show the proposed access points, which are roundabouts near County Trunk T and County Trunk JJ. A third image shows the bypass flowing north of Hortonville in relation to landmarks such as Commercial Club Park and the public schools.

The bypass is set to begin construction in late 2018.

The village of Hortonville posted the images to its Facebook page on Jan. 12 and reached more than 25,000 people, according to Village Administrator Diane Wessel. Facebook users replied with concerns about roundabouts on a high-speed bypass, the road’s effect on farmers and the impact on Hortonville businesses.

Contrary to concerns raised by residents on Facebook, Wessel said she believes the bypass will stimulate the local economy, not hurt it.

The 16,000 cars that drive through Hortonville each day create challenges for shoppers, Wessel said. She rarely shops in town between 4:30 and 6 p.m. because she finds it risky crossing the heavy traffic to pull into a parking lot.

She said Hortonville’s Downtown Business Association is already exploring Main Street revitalization projects, anticipating that the bypass will reduce downtown congestion and turn Main Street into a pedestrian-friendly atmosphere for shoppers.

“I really don’t think that this is going to make small businesses dry up,” Wessel said.

She said Hortonville businesses are destination businesses – stores that shoppers get to know and make an effort to drive to, not stores that they stop at on a whim because they’re passing by.

Several Hortonville business owners on Highway 15 said they also aren’t worried.

“Ninety percent of our customers are loyal in-town customers,” said Nadia Zaatrah, co-owner of A&N Hortonville BP gas station. “They stop in in the morning. A lot of them stop in after work.”

“We’re established,” said Kevin Bolssen, co-owner of Bolssen’s Auto Sales west of Hortonville. “We’ve been here 25 years. So people know where we are and what we have to offer. I just don’t see much of that changing really.”

“I don’t think it’s going to affect our business at all,” said Ryan Burbey, owner of Hortonville Lanes bowling alley. Burbey said people don’t drive by a bowling alley and suddenly pull in to bowl—they plan it ahead of time.

Not everyone is optimistic about the bypass, however.

“I think it’s horrible,” said Anne Kuhnke, co-owner of the bar Heroes Fire-Military-Police. The bypass is a straight shot from Greenville to New London, and she said the lack of exit to Hortonville will kill businesses.

“They’re completely shutting us off,” Kuhnke said.

Hortonville Police Chief Michael Sullivan said the village has been battling to get an ingress and egress at either County Trunk M or County Trunk MM since the project underwent planning, to no success. This concerns him because firefighters and EMS will have to drive to County T (an additional 2.8 miles) or County JJ (2.2 miles) to get to an accident on the bypass.

“The major part is the emergency response is doubled, if not quadrupled, because of the distance emergency vehicles are going to have to travel to get onto the bypass,” Sullivan said.

Saying he didn’t want to sound too negative, Sullivan said police, fire and EMS will determine how to adapt and change patrol locations if necessary.

Sullivan is optimistic the bypass will reduce traffic deaths in the area because of its dividers between lanes. He also said the bypass will better accommodate pedestrians downtown and free up parking.

“Expansion-wise, I think Hortonville has a lot of potential, and this is going to help with that potential,” Sullivan said.

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