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Recreational trail finds its final path

Debate took many twists and turns before decision

May 11, 2012

Muskego - The city will stay on the straight, though a bit more narrow, path as originally planned for the current Tess Corners Drive road project.

On a 6-1 vote, the Muskego Common Council this week decided against an on-road option favored by some neighbors, keeping the planned recreation path off road between Janesville and Woods roads.

By November, when construction is expected to be complete, people may be able to bike or walk along the new six-foot-wide path adjacent to Tess Corners Drive to Janesville Road businesses.

Diverging paths

That path had kicked up a controversy in Muskego in recent weeks in which many Tess Corners Drive residents who object to the path were pitted against others, including a few neighbors, who favored the off-road design.

Opponents protested because of the anticipated loss of trees, though it is unclear how many will be cut down for the path and how many for the simultaneous Tess Corners roadwork. They also didn't want an eight-foot wide path so close to their front yards and homes.

Backers favored the off-road path option because it's a safer design, separating recreational pedestrians and bicyclists from a busy road. City officials also noted that if the city opted to put the path on the shoulder of the road, as some people preferred, it would cost $250,000 more to build due to the poor subsoil conditions that would have to be corrected.

Considering the alternatives

To try to reduce the impact on Tess Corners Drive residents, the council looked at various alternatives to the purely off-road and on-road designs.

One of those options was not doing the path at all, which would save a net $51,000 and possibly a few trees.

Another alternative was putting the path on just one side of the road. That would cost more than three times as much as putting it on one side for a variety of reasons, said David Simpson, department of public works director.

The alternative that was chosen - to build a six-foot rather than an eight-foot wide path -will save $8,800 net, but probably not save any trees, Simpson said.

What people really want?

Casting the only vote against the path was Alderman Keith Werner. He explained that although he strongly supports recreation paths, the majority of people contacting him was firmly against it and he cast his vote accordingly.

However, newly elected Alderman Rob Wolfe, whose district includes the path, said the majority of constituents who contacted him expressed support for the off-road design.

Wolfe said he was conflicted because his election campaign promised to reflect the wishes of his constituents and conservative spending. Ultimately, because his campaign emphasized "the minority doesn't control the majority," Wolfe said he voted for it.

One alderman noted how much emotion the issue has generated for all council members.

"We have been barraged with emails," said Alderman Neil Borgman, adding that the emails he personally received were roughly half and half.

In the end, for him, safety was the deciding point.

"It seems to me safer for people to be off the road if the road is not safe," Borgman said.

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