Pair of fatal crashes lend timeliness to highway study

County analysis due next month is focused on rural intersections like the two where lives were lost
Ozaukee Press staff

Even before two recent highway fatalities, Ozaukee County officials were looking for guidance on how to make county highway intersections safer and, they hope, help secure funding to pay for improvements.

In May, the Ozaukee County Public Works Committee authorized Cedarburg-based Traffic Analysis & Design Inc. (TADI) to conduct a “safety screening” and review accident data over the last several years for all county highway intersections.  

“Once the study is complete, county officials will further investigate specific intersections highlighted in the study,” county Public Works Director Jon Edgren said.  

Edgren said he expects the study to be presented to the committee in September.

“The impetus (for the study) was simply a desire to find the worst intersections and seek funding to construct the recommended safety improvements,” Edgren said.

Improving highway safety in the county gained urgency in recent weeks following two fatal car crashes in the last month, most recently on July 21 at highways 33 and I in the Town of Saukville when a 2010 Ford Fusion driven by 75-year-old Mequon man ran a stop sign and hit a motorcycle traveling east, killing a 61-year-old Grafton woman who was a passenger on the motorcycle. The drivers of the car and motorcycle also were hospitalized. 

The driver of the Fusion was cited for failing to stop.

The other incident occurred on July 3 at highways NN and Y in the Town of Cedarburg.

In that crash, a 19-year-old Mequon man driving a 2012 Volkswagen Passat ran a stop sign while going north on Highway Y and struck a westbound 2015 Chevrolet Impala on Highway NN, killing the driver, a 56-year-old Town of Cedarburg man. 

Both cars left the roadway and struck nearby buildings.

The driver of the Passat and his 19-year-old female passenger were transported to Aurora Medical Center in Grafton for treatment of non-life threatening injuries.

The driver of the Passat was cited for failing to yield, meaning he stopped and then pulled out into the other right of way.

Calls for additional signage and other potential remedies immediately followed both crashes. 

Being that both crashes were caused by drivers not yielding at a stop sign, roundabouts have been suggested as a solution at both sites.

Once the TADI study is complete, there’s potential to obtain state funding for those projects, Edgren said.

State funding for the most dangerous intersections, based on the severity and total number of accidents, could be available through the state Highway Safety Improvement Program, he said.

According to the state Department of Transportation website, however, the program’s “emphasis is on low-cost options that can be implemented quickly.”

That would seem to rule out construction of roundabouts, which are expensive to construct being that they often require buying additional land.

Town of Saukville officials estimated that the cost of building a roundabout at highways 33 and I could cost $1.5 million or more.

“Roundabouts are always an option, but they’re costly,” Edgren said. “We’d want to understand the scope and severity of accidents that are occurring at an intersection before selecting any specific changes.”

A roundabout at highways NN and Y also would be difficult because of the location of buildings there, including a stone house that sits on a triangle bordered by highway NN and Y and Pleasant Valley Road.

Edgren said the county already has taken steps to improve safety at the Town of Cedarburg intersection, including  installing “Cross Traffic Does Not Stop” signs and adding reflective tape on the stop signs there.

“Unfortunately, there’s not a lot that can impact ‘failure to yield’ when there’s good sight distance,” Edgren said. “It simply tends to be drivers that are impatient, inattentive or don’t estimate the speed of cross traffic well.”

At the Town of Saukville intersection, he said emphasizing to drivers on Highway I that they must stop by installing additional signage may help prevent more crashes like the one that occurred on July 21.

“There are different options to ensure drivers are aware of stop signs, such as more advanced warning signs, larger or overhead stop signs, and/or flashing stop signs,” he said.



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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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