A multimillion-dollar construction project in La Crosse has officials hoping to ease traffic and make traveling safer, but the proposed changes have some businesses in the area concerned.
Wisconsin Department of Transportation officials initially met with business owners in that area last November to hear their concerns.
Since then, the department has come up with a plan it hopes will provide a good compromise for everyone, but the businesses still have their doubts.
The location is just one of the many reasons why Sharon Earp decided to move her business, SSE Music, to this area 20 years ago.
“It was easy access off the interstate, quite visible, we had great signage (and) we thought it would be a good choice,” said Earp. “People coming from every direction could access us.”
Since then, she said business has been doing well, but that might all change with a proposal from the Wisconsin DOT that could reroute the entrance into their shop.
“Either people will not take the time to turn in and they'll go find something else somewhere, but we are a destination here,” said Earp. People are coming to come to our business, so we want to make it as easy as possible for people to get to where they want to go.”
The revised plans include widening parts of Rose and George streets. A median would also be added down George street that leads to a stoplight intersection. The intersection becomes the new main entry points to stores on either side.
The project supervisor, Joe Gregas, said the plan is one of the best options to reduce congestion and the high accident rate in the area.
“If we have distinct places where the traveling public can get to these businesses such as a signalized intersection, that really helps increase the safety and efficiency,” said Gregas.
The plans would also take out part of the parking lot at Good Steward Resale Shop.
“It will affect their bottom line considerably,” said Henry Leibl of the Good Steward Resale Shop. “That's one of the primary advantages of our business -- easy in, easy out.”
Leibl hopes there's still time to find a better compromise.
“It's not going to be over until it’s over, and we'll see what develops in the next year or so,” said Leibl.
Gregas said the plans are not final yet.
DOT officials hope to look at feedback from Wednesday's meeting for any more possible changes.
Gregas said there are also more meetings to come, including a public information meeting to gather more input from the entire community.
Construction on the exit 3 part of the project is scheduled to start sometime this year.
Once all of the plans have been finalized, the entire project should be done by 2017 and should cost upwards of $70 million.