Denise Kraetsch could lose her family farm if the Wisconsin Department of Transportation is allowed to proceed with a rural highway project in Washington County.
But the potential effect on taxpayers could be even more significant.
The DOT wants to spend more than $16 million to improve a 7.5-mile stretch of State Highway 164 running through the Village of Richfield and the Town of Polk.
But a grass-roots organization that has been fighting the project for more than a decade says the DOT could accomplish the same goal for $8,000 by simply reducing the speed limit from 55 mph to 45 mph.
“The question we’re asking is: Why are they trying to spend $16 million to fix an $8,000 problem?” Jeff Gonyo, a member of the Highway J Citizens Group steering committee, told Wisconsin Reporter. “That’s government at its worst.”
Gonyo and his neighbors filed in federal court a preliminary injunction against the U.S. DOT, Federal Highway Administration, Wisconsin DOT and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It’s an attempt to further block the agencies from expanding the two-lane road.
The DOT says the $16 million project is needed to create turn lanes at most intersections, improve sight distances and relieve traffic congestion at Holy Hill Road.