|Highway 26 Corridor Study - Public Meetings|
Highway 26 Corridor Study
|Public information meetings
The WisDOT and its consultants will hold three public informational meetings in January 2000 to describe the process and the project to the public. The meetings will be held in an open-house format, with a continuously running video presentation to provide overall information. There will not be a formal presentation. The same information, including an estimate of each alternative's transportation and environmental impacts, will be presented at each meeting.
The open-house format provides citizens an opportunity to review the issues under study including alternatives, costs, potential impacts and traffic analysis. Citizens will be able to view exhibits and meet individually with personnel from WisDOT and Earth Tech, Inc., the Madison consulting firm developing the EIS study. Citizens are being asked to give their comments on the alternatives so that this information can be considered in the preparation of the Draft EIS. Public comments are requested.
January 2000 Public Information Meeting dates
The next public information meeting is Wednesday, January 19, from 5 to 9 p.m. in the cafeteria at Riverside Middle School, 131 Hall Street, Watertown. (Previous meetings were held January 10 in Jefferson and January 11 in Milton.)
A separate information meeting for the public on historic preservation and archaeology in relation to the Highway 26 corridor study is being held on Thursday, January 27 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., with a presentation at 5 p.m., at the Jefferson City Hall, 317 South Main Street, Jefferson. Persons with a concern for or knowledge about historical buildings and structures and archaeological sites are encouraged to attend one of these meetings or provide comments to DOT or Earth Tech.
The schools and the Jefferson City Hall are wheelchair accessible. Persons requiring the assistance of a sign language interpreter may contact Kimberly Johnson through the Wisconsin Telecommunication Relay System (1-800-WI-Relay) no later than three working days prior to the meetings.
What changed between June 1999 and January 2000?
Information about the Highway 26 Study alternatives will be available at the public information meetings scheduled in January 2000. These alternatives will be considered in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that will be published in May 2000.
The number of alternatives has been reduced and remaining alternatives have been modified since the public information meetings held last June. Many earlier alternatives are no longer under consideration because of a lack of public support and because they generally resulted in greater environmental consequences.
WisDOT and Federal Highway Administration are responsible for completing the EIS required by federal and state law. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Interior, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection and the State Historical Preservation Office are participating in the review of alternatives.
Public Information Meetings held in June 1999
Nearly 600 people attended the three public information meetings held for the Highway 26 Study in the cities of Milton, Jefferson and Watertown in June 1999. This was the first of four more groups of public meetings that the Department of Transportation will hold as part of its Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) study.
Public comments are an important factor in the study process. WisDOT received approximately 120 comment forms and letters after the June 1999 public meetings. In addition to comment forms and letters, over 180 postcards were received indicating opposition to expanding Highway 26 through the city of Milton.
The same information was provided at all three meetings. There were displays showing various topics under study. WisDOT staff and its consultant, Earth Tech, were available to provide information on the alternatives and answer questions on an individual basis.
Most frequent concerns and comments after June 1999 meetings
The public was concerned about a number of issues as a result of the information presented at the June 1999 meetings. Among these concerns were questions about how the changes would affect the Milton House and other historically significant properties and areas, improving the safety at the intersection of Highway N and Highway 26 in Rock County, environment and economic losses as farmland is converted to roadway and right of way, the loss of homes and other private property, environmental effects on wetlands and wildlife habitats, concerns about how the bypass alternatives would affect St. Coletta east of Jefferson, access to Watertown Hospital, and the existing Highway 16 bypass outside of Watertown.
Purposes and alternatives
One of the main purposes of the public information meetings is to present alternatives. At the first group of public information meetings in June 1999, there were a wide range of bypass alternatives presented for the Milton, Jefferson and Watertown areas.
The alternatives presented in the January 2000 meetings have been expanded to include the existing highway as well. The alternatives are divided into three segments, South, Central and North, matching the Study Committee segments. It should be emphasized that these alternatives are still subject to modification and are being presented for review and comment at these meetings.
After the public information meetings, the Draft EIS will be prepared. If one of the alternatives appears to be much better than the others at that time, a preferred alternative may be identified in the Draft EIS. Preferred alternatives will be selected in the Final EIS.
To what extent does public input really make a difference in the decision-making process? Today, more than ever, highway projects are developed as a cooperative effort between the public, state and federal review agencies, and WisDOT. There will be several opportunities for public input as the Highway 26 project progresses. Although not everyone will be happy with all of the alternatives under consideration, each will be carefully developed and refined to reflect ideas and suggestions from
Highway 26 Corridor Study