Baraboo business leaders optimistic about bypass
Baraboo business leaders are optimistic about their future after the Highway 12 bypass project is completed next year, Baraboo Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Bobby Boettcher said Sunday.
The project means instead of running through Baraboo and West Baraboo, Highway 12 will be a freeway running west of the city and village.
Some businesses, like The Shoe Box, which was located at the corner of Highway 12 and Linn Street in West Baraboo, have already shut their doors in anticipation of decreased traffic to and from the Dells.
Boettcher said lately, though, business owners have been rethinking their pessimism over the project. Instead, she said they see the new highway as an opportunity for the area to grow.
“It’s really shifted in my time,” Boettcher said. “It’s becoming more viewed as an opportunity and how we can work together to make ourselves better.”
Boettcher said the business community has been looking into ways to ensure travelers don’t pass Baraboo by, like blue highway information signs showing attractions and restaurants as well as additional promotion of what the area has to offer.
“Our Downtown Business, Incorporated is really working hard on how do we get people not just off but into our historic downtown Baraboo,” Boettcher said.
One downtown business owner said he’s feeling equally optimistic.
“There’s a lot of people that think that the highway is going to cause people to blow by Baraboo,” John Kessanich, owner of The Grainary, a downtown natural foods store. “I think Baraboo’s got a strong enough character and personality that people will want to come here.”
Kessanich said he thinks Baraboo is a destination city with plenty to offer tourists on its own.
“Baraboo is like the Sedona of the Midwest,” Kessanich said. “The positive energy that’s here is beautiful.”
Boettcher said she thinks the new highway will also offer growth opportunities for the area.
“I feel that the four-lane is a great opportunity for potential new residents,” she said. “All of a sudden a half-hour to 45-minute drive to the west side of Madison becomes significantly shorter.”
For the latest on the project’s status, visit the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s website.