Over the past few years, my daily commute downtown leaves me chuckling as I traverse Port Washington between Mequon and Highland roads. Look at all those obvious out-of-towners who think they'll be able to turn left here during rush hour! Since I can remember, there has been more traffic on that 4 mile stretch of Port Washington than you can shake a stick shift at. The DOT has made a 2010 summer project of this bottleneck. We get to watch progress as we funnel through the ongoing road construction. Is it part of the shovel-ready stimulus? Maybe. The casual motorist may drive by thinking "it's about time they did something about this road."
I drive by wondering who dropped the ball no this one. It wasn't until early June when traffic counters were placed around Milwaukee and Ozaukee county along the Thiensville/Mequon routes that I felt the need to point some things out. First of all, why bother counting traffic during peak road construction when drivers normal behaviors are obviously deviating for daily bulldozer and crane traffic?
Skip the traffic counters. Ask Mequon Thiensville commuters what they need. Check a map and see the obvious. Mequon Thiensville is split by a river that has two main bridges over Mequon and Highland roads. Most traffic coming from west of the river trying to get on Hwy 43 will need to use one of those bridges. That having been said, why is it that Highland has no ties to 43? Last summer, intersections at both Highland/Port and Mequon/Port were megafied so we could have a double barrel entrance to the 43 ramp instead of simply paving the way around the Highland 43 overpass to connect the two. Instead, west Ozaukee County, Columbia St. Mary's patients and employees, and both Concordia and north MATC students usually need to get off 43 at one of the busiest intersections in the county and crawl up Port Washington, blocking that poor out of towner who still can't seem to turn left onto Port after that grocery stop. The freeway flier, bus route 143, is also needlessly pinned to the tightrope that is Port Washington Rd. The truth is the gap between Mequon Road and Pioneer Road is 4.1 miles: the longest untapped stretch of Hwy 43 between Milwaukee and Port Washington.
I know a 43 ramp on Highland had been debated years ago, but always fell through the cracks. Or did it? Why would it fall through the cracks? An overpass already exists. How does a half mile of onramp pavement compare to a perpetual widening and repaving of a road that parallels the perfectly ideal Hwy 43? Observe the satellite photo from Google Maps, which looks like a bulldozer started to clear the way for a southbound ramp on Highland, but ran out of gas or got bored.
Port Washington Road traffic has evolved a local phenomenon called “porting,” whereby a resident avoids plugging up their lane while waiting to turn left into their driveway. With a long chain of oncoming traffic timed to block their upcoming left turn, they cross over oncoming traffic into the opposite shoulder, and ride it up to 500 feet to make their left turn. It's something you see and shrug off as “hey it works,” but how long until there is an incident that it doesn't work? That will be an ugly day.
Who stands to benefit from an overloaded Port Washington Road? If I were a business owner in the area, I might appreciate the endless traffic that ambles by my big retail signs. Sadly though most spendy passersby are running too late to stop because of traffic congestion, or can't figure out how to get to a business with the crazy divider island that is growing along most of Port Washington Rd.
Good luck all. I say cheers to a smooth journey from point A to point B. For a list of current DOT area projects, check the link below.