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DOT has safety plans for Hwy. 14, lacks funding

Published On: Feb 12 2013 07:42:08 PM CST
Updated On: Feb 12 2013 07:55:30 PM CST

Almost nine months after a fatal crash, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation has plans to make a stretch of highway in Dane County safer, but it lacks the funding for its proposals.

Students and staff in the Wisconsin Heights School District deal with the dangerous stretch of Highway 14 in Black Earth every day, and they want changes to make it safer.

Last May, student teacher Katie Binning was hit head on and killed turning into the high school parking lot.

"I can guarantee you that, unfortunately, it will happen again if changes aren't made," said Mary Kay Deese, who teaches sixth and seventh grades at Wisconsin Heights.

Deese has a view of the stretch of highway from her classroom window, and said she often sees confusion from drivers and close calls for crashes.

"You kind of cringe and go, 'Oh, it almost happened again,'" Deese said.

"We've had five fatalities in this stretch since 2002, 140 accidents, (and) 25 percent have been rear-ended. This is real for us," said Mark Elworthy, Wisconsin Heights school administrator.

The DOT drew up three plans to make that stretch safer. The cheapest option costs $3.2 million and adds left-hand turn lanes.

The second option would straighten out a crash-prone curve in the road, which would cost $5 million.

The third option would be to build an entirely new Highway 14, taking the traffic off the road and the furthest away from the school. It's the priciest proposal at $8.4 million.

But the DOT doesn't have the money to fund any of these proposals right now.

"(The highway) brings people through our community and to our community, and so we know it's going to have to be a team effort," Elworthy said.

Deese said she is determined to see changes to prevent future tragedies.

"Losing one life is losing one too many in my opinion," Deese said.

Over the past five years, the DOT counted one death and seven crashes along the half mile in front of the school.

The district put up larger signs over the past few years, along with a suggested speed limit of 45 mph near the school.

In the spring, the school administrator plans to install overhead signs with flashing lights as an additional precaution.

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