It is a project that nearly everyone agrees needs to be done. The debate is how it should be done and how much it impacts the future of businesses that have existed for decades.
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation will be reconstructing Highway 18/151, or Verona Road, in the coming years. With more than 25,000 cars and trucks traveling that road every day, the need is there to ease congestion.
Several business owners along the corridor are concerned because of preliminary plans that would force one business to relocate and impact access for others.
"We’ve been working with DOT for more than a decade. Something has to be done. The question we have now is how is it done? How do we make sure the balance occurs between neighborhood residents who want some relief from the congested traffic, businesses who want to stay and prosper in Fitchburg, Dane County area and the truck traffic that needs to go to and from across our state," Mayor of the city of Fitchburg Shawn Pfaff said.
Pfaff sent a letter to Wisconsin Department of Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb asking him to consider several concerns the city has with the project. In addition to the concerns they have regarding the impact the project will have on businesses along Verona Road near the McKee Road (County Hwy PD) intersection, they are also asking for review of plans for the Raymond Road and Williamsburg Way intersections.
Pfaff said the project in the Verona and McKee roads area is of particular concern because of the number of businesses it will impact.
Benjamin Plumbing, a business that has been in its current location along Verona Road for 27 years, would need to be relocated if the current plans go through.
"The building has to come down. We have to relocate Benjamin Plumbing because they are taking 30 feet of our building, the full length of Verona Road," Dale Benjamin, owner of Benjamin Plumbing, said.
Benjamin said moving their business will have an impact on customers and the 26 employees of the business.
"I understand the need. I don’t debate that at all. I drive up and down that road every day so it has got to happen. It is going to happen. It is unfortunate it is going to happen to us," Benjamin said.
Pfaff also understands the need for the project, but hopes balance can be achieved between the needs of the highway and the needs of residents and businesses.
In a response from the WisDOT they said, “The DOT recently began a public outreach effort for the second stage of the Verona Road reconstruction project, scheduled to begin in 2017. (Construction of stage one, the Beltline/Verona interchange, begins this spring). The design of stage two is ongoing, and we welcome input from city of Fitchburg and other stakeholders as the public involvement process continues on how to best improve safety and mobility along this important corridor.”