Potential highway swap has community upset

La Crosse County officials are looking into making a trade with the state of Wisconsin.

The county would take over control of the current State Highway 108 from West Salem to Burr Oak, and the state would be in charge of the current County Highway C in that area. The town of Farmington, however, is not in favor of the change.

La Crosse County was approached by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation in 2012 with the idea of a trade, because the DOT said, travel on County Highway C is similar to that of a state highway, whereas State Highway 108 has much less traffic, similar to a county highway.

If the trade happens, the road names would switch, along with who maintains them.

Right now State Highway 108 runs through the towns of Mindoro and Farmington, and residents in those towns feel the county won’t take care of their road like the state does.

La Crosse County Board Chair Tara Johnson said a trade has been on the table for a while, but the DOT has made its final offer.

“Four point one million (dollars) to make that trade,” she said.

Johnson says that money could really benefit a backlog of road work.

“As we look at more than – almost $40 million in needs for rural road repair that is currently on our books for need in La Crosse County. It’s really irresponsible to not look at $4.1 million from the state to help meet some of those rural road needs,” Johnson said.

But that deficit is what has town of Farmington residents and town chairman concerned.

“I just feel that the money is going to get misused as far as how it’s going to affect the roads that it’s supposed to be fixed by it,” Mindoro resident Dan Howe said.

“The biggest problem is the county is historically behind on maintenance of county roads,” Michael Hesse said.

Since the state highway would avoid the towns, if a trade is made, some are concerned the local economy could take a hit as well.

“We brand ourselves on 108 burgers, the business is located on 108 itself, and if the road were to change it would be located on Highway C,” Top Dawgs employee Taylor Schmeckpeper said.

He said Top Dawgs had patrons from as far as Menominee Thursday.

Schmeckpeper says State Highway 108 is a better-kept road because it’s state-funded, and many residents in town share his same concern that the road won’t be taken care of as well by the county.

Johnson says if a trade does happen, the $4.1 million will be used to improve both roads. Howe says those improvements will be more of a Band-Aid than anything else.

The decision on the trade will be made at the County Board meeting in November.