The Port Washington Town Board asked for input on Green Bay Road, and got an earful about a curvy rural road made dangerous by a ridiculous 55 mph speed limit
There are no speed limit signs along most of Green Bay Road between Hillcrest Road and Highway 33, but if there were, they would say 55 mph.
Which is ridiculous.
Nothing about this Town of Port Washington road suggests it was meant to be a thoroughfare.
It traverses a countryside that, while surrounded by development, remains rural in character. It turns and undulates through rolling terrain, past roadside trees, pretty views, a farm or two and scattered houses and driveways before ending in residential neighborhood (where the speed limit is 35 mph).
It’s not a road to use to get anywhere fast. That was the point who live along Green Bay Road tried to make at a meeting held by the Town Board in early March.
A number of them told of high-speed drivers making the road dangerous for pedestrians. “They just come flying through,” one said. A woman who walks the road with her dogs recounted having to seek refuge from fast traffic in driveways. Another resident said he wouldn’t allow his children to ride bikes along the road out of fear for their safety. It was good for Town Board members to hear this because they will be making some important decisions soon about the character of Green Bay Road. The road surface is in bad shape and will have to be rebuilt in the next several years.
It would be a mistake to do anything in “improving” the road that would encourage faster driving. The emphasis in a rebuilding plan should be on making it safer for pedestrians and bicycle riders and residents turning in and out of their driveways.
A number of once-rural roads in Ozaukee County are under the same pressure that is affecting Green Bay Road. These roads exist basically to serve people who live along them and are ill suited for fast travel. Unfortunately, as population and traffic grow, they are increasingly used as thoroughfares.
In the case of Green Bay Road, it seems a number of drivers take it as a short cut from the north side of Port Washington to Saukville. This is a rather perverse use in that the new four-lane Highway 33, built at great taxpayer expense to provide a fast, safe trip to Saukville, is accessible through a roundabout only half a mile from the Green Bay Road access point.
The problems of Green Bay Road will only be exacerbated if driving lanes are widened in the rebuilding. Besides a new surface, the road just needs a safe path for users not in motor vehicles—a separate paved multi-use path if there’s room in the right of way; if not, a wide, paved shoulder designated for users on foot or bikes.
But what the road needs before that is some effort by the Town Board to get rid of the 55 mph speed limit set by the state. State statutes allow the town to reduce the limit by 10 mph. That would be a start, and the board should do it, but 45 mph would still be too fast. A solution would be to designate Green Bay as a state Rustic Road.
This idea was suggested by one of the folks attending the meeting, but was pretty much shot down by thetown engineer, who said the road wouldn’t qualify.
This may have been a hasty judgment. The state Department of Transportation says that for a road to qualify for Rustic Road status it “should be a lightly traveled local access road, one which serves the adjacent property owners and those wishing to travel by auto, bicycle or hiking for purposes of recreational enjoyment of its rustic features.”
This describes Green Bay Road perfectly with the possible exception of the “lightly traveled” part. It’s a good guess that there is some leeway in the definition of lightly traveled. A traffic count might support an application for Rustic Road status. It’s certainly worth a try, because if successful the town could lower the speed limit to, say, 35 mph. That would give residents a safer road on which to drive, walk or ride bikes and send a message to drivers that if you’re trying to get some place in a hurry, you’re on the wrong road.
The Town Board asked for input from residents and it got it. Now it should act on it, working to slow down the traffic on Green Bay Road even before its starts the rebuilding project.