Chalk one up for the little guy. Standing like a David in front of Goliath, the town of Koshkonong went toe to toe with the Wisconsin DOT and the highway lobby over a planned 4 lane highway that would circumvent Fort Atkinson. The town argued that the road was not needed and would destroy over 200 acres of farmland. Then the surprising thing happened. Goliath fell. The road project was set aside.
The Highway 12 bypass around Fort Atkinson was planned as a part of the state’s Corridors 2020 highway planning process. The road was proposed to be widened to meet the growing traffic counts on the road – even though those counts wouldn’t have justified the project until 2035. However, since 2004, traffic counts have been going down. On highway 12, the numbers had actually dropped by 25% – calling the whole project into question.
In February, 1000 Friends of Wisconsin Executive Director Steve Hiniker was invited to speak to the town of Koshkonong board and others concerned about the project. By the end of the meeting, the town had decided to collect and then present more than 1000 petitions to the Governor asking for the project to be stopped. The town then enlisted the support of state Representative Evan Wynn and state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald to help convince the governor to stop the project.
Two months later, in April, the town prevailed and Governor Walker halted work on the project. In the process, over 200 acres of farmland were preserved, several acres of high quality wetlands were left intact and the downtown of Fort Atkinson was assured that vital traffic wouldn’t be shuttled around the city.
While the work has been suspended, the project needs to be completely shelved before permanent victory is secured.