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Germantown approves roundabout at Donges Bay and Fond du Lac

Feb. 5, 2013

Germantown - The debate went round and round Monday as the Germantown Village Board weighed whether a traffic signal or a roundabout should be installed at the intersection of Fond du Lac Avenue and Donges Bay Road.

In a 6-2 vote, the Village Board approved the roundabout project presented by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, which will fund most of the construction work.

Trustees Art Zabel and Melvin Ewert adamantly opposed the roundabout, citing residents' objection and calling the roundabout an inappropriate feature for that part of the village.

The DOT proposed the roundabout at Donges Bay and Fond du Lac, also known as State Highway 145, for 2016 to mitigate crashes and maintain a steady traffic flow. The highway is seeing an increase in traffic.

Roundabout less costly

The state has agreed to fund the construction of a roundabout, which is a less expensive option than an intersection. Had the board voted to put in a signal, the cost would have fallen entirely on the village.

"I'm having a difficult time agreeing to put money in a project that the state has agreed to take on," said Village President Dean Wolter, when an initial motion was made to approve a signal and not a roundabout. "With us choosing to go to a signalized intersection, aren't we also choosing to take on the added responsibility of the added traffic accidents that will occur there based on signalization verses roundabout? As a village are we willing to take that on?

"Because, as a board, that's what we're choosing to do - and also choosing to add costs."

Zabel said he believes the round about is designed larger than it needs to be and was created to appear less expensive than a signal.

After a lengthy debate, the first motion for a signalized intersection failed 6-3.

Emmanuel Yartey, project manager with the DOT, said his staff plans projects based on development, and they designed this project after thorough engineering work. The DOT determined a roundabout is the best option, based on projections for the area.

Zabel continued to disagree, saying a signalized intersection is more fitting for that area.

"I firmly believe this intersection is better served by a controlled traffic light, especially if the village, in the future, decides we are going to place a fire station in that northeast corner on the land that we own," he said.

It all comes down to cost

Zabel recommended using tax-incremental financing funds to pay for the cost of putting in a signal instead of a roundabout. Wolter disagreed, noting that TIF funds, typically targeted for redevelopment, have better uses than paying to take over a project the state has agreed to fund.

The village would also have to pay maintenance and energy costs with a signal, Director of Public Works Dan Ludwig said, a small but continuing cost.

Though not a huge fan of roundabouts, Trustee Terri Kaminski said she is more in favor of the roundabout option based on the information provided.

"If it's going to cost the village more, why would I want to do that? It's going to be the taxpayers paying for the signalized intersection," she said. "If the state wants to put the roundabout in, and I believe the roundabout would definitely be safer, then why not?"

Ewert, who voted against the roundabout, said the state will push a roundabout one way or another, saying the village wasn't really being given a choice.

"Why don't they just come here and say, 'You don't have a choice?' " Ewert said. "(The state) wants a roundabout and they're going to get one."

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