Wescott board approves closing north end of Old Keshena Road

Cul-de-sac would be put in as part of improvements to highway

Leader Photo by Lee Pulaski The Wescott Town Board approved closing the northern entrance of Old Keshena Road from State Highway 47-55 and turning it into a cul-de-sac, contingent on the state paying the costs. Neighbors are concerned about traffic coming off the highway at more than double the posted 25 mph speed limit.

A month after rejecting the idea, the Wescott Town Board Thursday approved closing off the north end of Old Keshena Road and allowing the state to put in a cul-de-sac where the road currently intersects with state Highway 47-55.

That would be contingent, however, on the state paying the cost of the cul-de-sac, which would be constructed as part of the Department of Transportation’s plans to make improvements to Highway 47-55.

That project won’t happen until 2020 at the earliest, according to the DOT.

Town officials were caught off guard when the Old Keshena Road cul-de-sac showed up for the first time on the state’s plans for Highway 47-55 in January, one of the reasons it was initially rejected by the board last month.

Since then, a petition drive to close the north end of the road netted signatures from 57 neighbors, though only a half dozen people attended Thursday’s meeting.

“People thought this was a wonderful idea to close this road because they walk on it and they do know that traffic is just ridiculous on this road,” said Nick Nordin, who spearheaded the petition drive. “We have the opportunity here to close this and put a cul-de-sac in. If this opportunity passes by, it will never happen.”

Nordin said it was his understanding the state would pay for the cul-de-sac as part the highway improvement project.

Jim Van Zeeland, who helped gather petition signatures, said, “Many of the people I spoke to were concerned about the speed of the traffic coming down the road as it comes in from the north, particularly with children, grandchildren that are out on the road.”

Some who signed the petition were also in favor of the cul-de-sac because it would keep the road more private.

“If you look at the number in favor, I think the weight of the citizens outweighs what the municipality may think at this point,” Van Zeeland said.

Thomas Oster said vehicles coming off Highway 47-55 are well over the posted speed limit of 25 mph, some still traveling at highway speed, which is 55 mph in that area.

Nordin noted the design of the intersection of Old Keshena Road with Highway 47-55 would probably not be allowed today.

“If it went in today it would be completely different because of the angle, the curvature of the road and the speed of the road,” he said.

The V-shaped intersection requires motorists turning south onto Highway 47-55 from Old Keshena Road to make nearly a hairpin turn against oncoming traffic.

The state has offered no options to address the intersection if the road stays open.

Nordin also said some motorists see Old Keshena Road as a short-cut.

“I don’t understand that,” he said, noting it takes more time to travel down the road than continue along the highway.

Nordin also said intoxicated drivers are using the road as a means of avoiding police.

“They’re trying to use Old Keshena Road as an off point where they think, ‘The cops won’t follow me,’” he said. “That only brings in more concern for me. Are they going to try and run from the cops? The high speed is my concern.”

Shawano County Supervisor Gene Hoppe, who represents Wescott, echoed the safety concerns.

“I don’t want to go to a funeral for a little kid because we didn’t make a good decision here,” Hoppe said. “I think (closing the road) is a good decision.”

The board voted 5-1 in favor of the cul-de-sac, with Chairman Mike Schuler casting the sole no vote.

The vote was contingent, however, on the state paying for the cul-de-sac and making improvements to the highway’s intersection with Frailing Lane to the south, which could end up seeing increased use.

Schuler said after the meeting that closing the north end of the road created safety problems of its own in the event of an emergency.

“If something happens, there’s no other way out,” he said. “It’s like closing off a door in your home.”

He said it would also force heavy town vehicles to make use of Frailing Lane near John’s One-Stop, which, according to the state, Schuler said, is one of the two areas that have had the highest number of traffic accidents along Highway 47-55. The other is the highway’s intersection with County Road H.