DOT will implement new safety measures on HWY 15

Published: Jan. 10, 2020 at 6:38 PM CST
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After multiple fatal accidents and community concerns, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) announced new safety improvements for Highway 15 in Outagamie County. The DOT is suggesting many changes -- but not the one many living in the area were hoping for.

"There are, unfortunately, a lot of lives that have been changed due to automobile accidents on [HWY] 15,” said Jen Hohn, who lives in Hortonville and owns No Limits Photography.

Three people were killed in accidents on HWY 15 last year, according to DOT records.

For Jen Hohn, a mother of two fairly new drivers, that doesn't sit well.

"Every time they leave the house I'm concerned, I'm concerned especially in that area,” said Hohn.

The DOT heard the concerns from the Hortonville and Greenville communities and has since completed a study of that section of the highway.

"We did a comprehensive traffic engineering review, which includes a speed study, a review of past crash history, and a review of the highway,” said DOT Systems Planning and Operations Manager Brian Brock.

As a result of that study, the DOT is planning many changes for that section of Highway 15. That includes adding dynamic speed display signs, improving a taper lane at County JJ and refreshing pavement markings in spring, and increasing state patrols.

But there's one thing the DOT won't change: the speed limit.

Brock says they found the current speed meets state and national standards. Plus, the study found most drivers wouldn't comply with a lower speed limit, potentially making things more dangerous.

“Lowering the speed limit could create an increase in variations in the way people are driving which creates other issues," said Brock.

"Then we're going to have a drastic difference in speed,” said State Patrol Sgt. Andrew Jacobs. “That can create a lot of tailgating, it'll create a lot of trying to pass in unsafe areas."

They also argue in most of the crashes, including the fatal ones, inattentive driving was the main cause -- not speeding.

But Hohn argues that multiple factors likely play into the highway’s safety conditions, so she would still like to see the speed limit lowered.

"Mainly because the highway itself has pretty high traffic volume, so with the amount of traffic in the area and the speed limit being at 55, it continues to make it an unsafe travel experience for people,” said Hohn.

All in all, the DOT will spend nearly $200,000 to make the safety changes.

Though it's not everything Hohn was hoping for, she’s glad to see changes being made.

"The fact that the DOT did come down and do the study, and is evaluating the current situation on the highway, does mean a lot to us and everyone in the community,’ said Hohn. “Because it means they are paying attention to the concerns we have."

The DOT also has plans to expand the highway in 2021, expanding it to a four-lane highway and adding two roundabouts in order to increase safety and decrease traffic congestion. To learn more about that project