CALEDONIA  – Village Board members appeared receptive to supporting a state plan to install roundabouts at two crash-prone intersections in the village, based on a special board meeting held Thursday.

The two intersections are located at Five Mile Road and Four Mile Road, where either east-west road intersects the north-south State Highway 38.

The best solution to replace right-angle intersections with increasing numbers of collisions would be single-lane roundabouts, said Wisconsin Department of Transportation Safety Engineer Dan Dedrick.

“The geometric features of the roundabout are usually what help resolve these issues,” he told board members. “That’s not to say that there’s going to be a huge significant decrease in the total number of crashes.”

Wisconsin transportation department figures show increases in crashes at both intersections for most years starting in 2015. DOT officials reported that the Four Mile Road intersection crash rate is 2.51 crashes per every million entering vehicles, with 70 percent fatal or injury of any capacity. The Five Mile Road intersection shows a crash rate of 2.58 crashes for every million vehicles entering the intersection, with a fatality and injury rate of 62 percent.

The addition of signage and flashing beacons “do not appear to be reducing crashes at the intersection,” Dedrick wrote to Caledonia Public Works Director Tom Lazcano. 

The traffic volume at both intersections doesn’t meet minimum requirements for installing four-way traffic stoplights, which typically incur longer driver delays than traffic lights, Dedrick said. At the same time, re-aligning the intersections to improve sightlines would increase cost without preventing right-angle crashes, Dedrick wrote.

The state intends to seek Federal Highway Safety Improvement Program funding to cover 90 percent of the construction, with the remaining 10 percent covered by state transportation funds. The estimated cost of adding a roundabout at both intersections is about $3 million each, Dedrick said.

Roundabout project would need village board support

Dedrick asked board members for a letter of support for the roundabout construction, though he acknowledged support for roundabouts isn’t universal.

“Usually, the public doesn’t want them,” he said. “It increases driver delay and so forth. I feel it’s the best alternative, but not everyone always agrees with that.”

Dedrick attended Monday’s virtual meeting and fielded questions from trustees, most focused on potential delays arising from construction, potential costs to the village and right of way issues.

“How long does it take to typically build one of these things?” trustee Dale Stillman asked at one point.

“It might take two summers,” Dedrick responded. “If we have to get real estate, we kind of allow two years.”

Significant property acquisition isn’t sizeable, Dedrick said.

At least one board member – Trustee Fran Martin – said she favored roundabouts, though she acknowledged some public pushback.

“Somebody’s going to complain because some people just don’t like roundabouts,” she said. “Too bad.”

Support for the project shifts

The village board’s receptivity to the idea indicated a significant change, both among local leaders and the public, said Caledonia administrator Tom Christensen. The public generally – not just in Caledonia – has had more time to interact with roundabouts.

“The board was really against it last time, and the fact that the board has come around is really huge,” he said. “I think it matches what the public is perceiving as well.”

The Village Board could provide a letter of support for the roundabouts as soon as March 1, said Village President Jim Dobbs.

“I think that our board will get this letter produced soon,” he said. “I don’t envision any hang-ups from our end.”

Following a discussion on the roundabouts, board members entered a closed session for less than 30 minutes before emerging to unanimously approve the 2021-2022 contract with the fire department.

Dobbs, Martin, Stillman, Tom Weatherston, Dave Prott and Lee Wishau were present for Monday’s special meeting. Trustee Kevin Wanggaard was absent.

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