The Oneida County Highway Committee on Thursday approved a request to reduce the speed limit on a stretch of County Highway L in the town of Nokomis from 55 miles per hour to 45 miles per hour.
The action was taken following discussion regarding a request from Nokomis resident Russell Berg to reduce the speed limit along approximately 3.6 miles of Hwy. L from the Lincoln County line to Semmerling Road in Oneida County.
That stretch of road is home to nearly 20 different business establishments, including the Windmill Ice Cream Shoppe.
Committee chairman Robb Jensen opened the discussion by explaining that the reduced speed limit request had come up before.
He then asked highway commissioner Bruce Stefonek what had been done to this point.
"There is a 55 mile per hour speed limit on all of County (Hwy.) L," he said.
Stefonek then referred to information Berg had sent and then to an overhead view of the area in question.
"It shows the congestion," he said. "As the committee knows, this is the second time that has come up in as many years. I don't travel it enough to know if it's worse than two years ago."
Stefonek said when personnel with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation looked at Hwy. L the first time the matter came up, it was explained the speed limit was 65 miles per hour when the road was built "way back when."
"Of course, the state brought it down to 55 miles per hour so it had been originally engineered for the 65 miles per hour," he said.
Committee member Ted Cushing asked if all the businesses along that section of road existed at the time the road was put in with a 65 mile per hour speed limit.
"That I don't know," Stefonek said.
The answer he got was no and Jim DeBiase, shop foreman for the town of Nokomis, said in just the past eight months, two of the businesses on that stretch of Hwy. L have changed owners.
"The congestion has gotten far worse, especially on the weekends," he said. "If you were to sit there on a Friday night, it gets pretty treacherous, the traffic turning in and out, trying to enter and exit."
DeBiase said two of the businesses, in addition to the Windmill Ice Cream Shoppe, are attracting a lot of tourists.
"It's people coming in from other counties that aren't familiar with the road so there's a lot of confusion there," he said.
"We have to get permission, don't we?" Cushing asked of the procedure.
Committee member Scott Holewinski said the committee didn't need permission to reduce the speed limit to 45.
Below that, there would have to be a study done by a consulting firm, which could get expensive.
"We don't want to go that route," Holewinski, also Sugar Camp's town chairman, said. "Sugar Camp's got (State) Highway 17 that goes through ... at 45 miles per hour."
"I'm usually not for lowering the speed limit, but in this instance, what's involved here, I would be in favor of lowering the speed limit to 45," Holewinski said.
"I drive that enough to know exactly what you're talking about," Cushing said. "When the summer season's over, you could yawn and fall asleep behind the wheel and not worry about hitting anybody."
Stefonek noted he'd talked to the Lincoln County highway commissioner and was informed the issue had come up during one of their meetings but no action was taken.
"That 45 miles per hour is going to have to start in Lincoln County so what I'd like to do is work in conjunction and maybe that could be part of your motion when somebody makes it," he said.
"Why would it have to start in Lincoln (County)?" Holewinski asked. "Whether Lincoln does it or not, what's it to us?"
DeBiase explained the congestion actually begins on Hwy. L south of the county line.
"But we don't control that," Holewinski said. Jensen he believed that was the understanding.
"We pass this then we contact Lincoln County," he said.
"I hope they follow our lead," committee member Mike Timmons noted.
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