Busy Pewaukee intersection gets redesign; neighbors concerned

People living near a busy intersection in Pewaukee say things are about to get much worse. There is a plan to control traffic, but neighbors are saying, "no way."

Sue Buth lives near County Highway F and Lindsay Road in Pewaukee

"That intersection is really dangerous," Buth said. 

When orange barrels went up, neighbors say problems followed. 

Construction near County Highway F and Lindsay Road in Pewaukee

"There’s a lot of traffic. Trucks ahead of you and behind you," said Tom Kissner, neighbor.

This set-up is only temporary, but it will soon become even more restrictive when the county and city install an ‘R-cut’ intersection in the area.

"An R-cut is a restricted crossing U-turn," said Magdelene Wagner, Pewaukee's Director of Public Works. 

Magdelene Wagner

Wagner says a project between the city and county will soon permanently restrict any vehicle from crossing County Highway F on Lindsay.

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"You’ll be required to do a right hand turn, go up a set distance and do a U-Turn," Wagner said.

The current detour has people during U-turns at County Highway F and Lisbon.

Buth said U-turning there is dangerous because of the constant parade of semis and dump trucks in a 55-mile-an-hour zone. It also stirs painful, decades-old memories.

"Before that [Lisbon & F] became a controlled intersection, my grandmother was killed at that intersection by somebody who T-boned their car," Buth said.

Wagner said a 2019 traffic study found an R-cut was the safest and best option for the intersection.

Nearly 400 neighbors signed a petition presenting another idea. 

"We need traffic lights at that intersection," said Kissner, who is worried first responders will also be delayed getting out of their subdivision. "Our mothers and fathers are currently being asked to get their kids ready 30-45 minutes early to get on the bus for school."

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Buth fears U-turns will lead to more crashes. She does not want to see history repeat itself. 

Construction near County Highway F and Lindsay Road in Pewaukee

"At the very least, leave the intersection alone and lower the speed limit," Buth said.

Pewaukee's DPW director said a grant covers 90% of the construction costs for the project. They hope to finish it in 2023.

Waukesha County statement on project

The project is a partnership between the City of Pewaukee and Waukesha County which is funded through a Highway Safety Improvement Grant (HSIP) and the City of Pewaukee. It was initiated in 2019 at the request of the City of Pewaukee based on numerous complaints from residents regarding the safety of this intersection.

In 2019 and 2020, the City of Pewaukee hired an independent engineering firm to analyze the intersection, crash data and traffic flows. The reports included traffic counts, turning movement counts, analysis of the accidents and recommendations for improvements.  The consultant worked closely with the City of Pewaukee to determine projected growth, land development, and traffic needs, to address future traffic growth. They studied both the currently proposed R-cut and a traffic signal based on the gathered data and projected traffic through 2030. 

The Studies estimated that there are an average of 22,000 vehicles per day on CTH F North of Lindsay Road and 23,000 vehicles per day on CTH F to the South of Lindsay Road.  They also estimated that there were 1,150 vehicles per day on Lindsay Road to the west of CTH F and 1,400 vehicles per day on Lindsay Road to the East of CTH F.  The engineer identified 7 nearby planned developments that would increase the intersection traffic, along with the historical traffic growth rate of 1.25 percent per year.  This information was used to forecast traffic at this location through 2030. 

The use of traffic control devices, such as a traffic signals or the R-cut, are regulated by state statutes (Wisconsin State Statutes 349.065).  In Wisconsin, the adopted standard for traffic control devices is the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) and all government agencies in Wisconsin are required to follow this manual.   The MUTCD specifies eight traffic control signal needs studies, known as warrants. A warrant is a condition that an intersection must meet to justify a signal installation. The decision to add traffic signals to an intersection is based on a warrant analysis and traffic engineering.   The 2019 study concluded that a traffic signal at this intersection would not meet any of the required warrants and was not justified.  The report also stated that a traffic signal at this location could be expected to increase high speed rear end collisions and the risk for angle crashes (currently accounting for 78% of the accidents) would remain.  This report recommended that an R-cut be installed at this location to address the accidents and traffic needs.

There is an allocation of funding from the Federal government through the State government focused on alleviating safety issues identified by counties. The Highway Safety Improvement Grant is an allocation we have used successfully, with the help of municipalities, to target areas of concern. The county has developed a capital plan that evaluates projects and funding and places the projects in a rolling five-year plan. This way we can apply for grants, like HISP, work with our municipal partners, and allocate county funds so we can ensure projects are completed on time and on budget. For this project the  HISP grant was approved by the State of Wisconsin Department of Transportation, who also reviewed the studies and plans for this location and agreed with the conclusions.

The County and City worked closely together to implement this project.  The County appeared before the City’s Common Council at four different meetings from 2019 through 2021 to discuss this project and our partnership.  In a 6-0 vote on June 7, 2021, the City of Pewaukee Common Council approved the project to construct the R-cut and agreed to partner with the County.  The executed project agreement between the City and County requires the City of Pewaukee to pay all project costs that are not funded by the HSIP grant.  

We understand that there is concern by residents regarding the plan to construct the R-cut.  We have been asked if the project can be stopped at this time and the R-cut not constructed.  As this project is being implemented, funded and supported by the City, the County could abandon this plan.  If the project were stopped at this time, the County would lose the entire HSIP grant, and the City would be required to compensate the County for 100% of the costs incurred to date.   

Again, we appreciate you reaching out to us and look forward to working with all concerned to reach an agreeable solution. If the City were to formally request that the county stop the project and agree to pay all eligible costs, the project could be abandoned, and the R-cut would not be constructed.