Outagamie County hoping for green light from Madison for Highway 15 bypass project

HORTONVILLE, Wis. (WBAY) -- A letter of support is on its way to Madison to urge legislators to finally give the green light for a Highway 15 Bypass project that’s 20 years in the making.

Over the past two decades, local officials said the Highway 15 bypass project has been through it all— proposed, planned, debated and delayed for two decades.

Village of Hortonville Administrator David DeTroye said all the hard work is already done, which includes the buying and tearing down of homes to make way for the Highway 15 expansion.

DeTroye said all they need, along with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, is the go-ahead from Madison to get this project underway in 2021.

If the project is delayed, DeTroye said it will only get more expensive in the future. DeTroye said 20 years ago, the price tag on the project was about $89 million, now it’s closer to $140 million.

The project would expand from two lanes to four lanes and reroute traffic around downtown areas, including busy school zones.

DeTroye said not only will it help with congestion, as thousands of cars use Highway 15 every day, but I will help with safety as more and more people try to use back roads to avoid the highway during peak hours.

“They are going onto lower area roads, smaller roads and those are becoming speed havens, people are getting hurt, accidents are increasing on these other roads because people are trying to find other thoroughfares of traffic to get off of highway 15,” said DeTroye.

The Hortonville Area School District’s transportation director said the congestion on backroads is also causing a lot of safety issues for school busses.

“Daily, up here just coming into town, we’ve had near misses where people aren’t paying attention when the bus stops and cars are going in ditches,” said Harold Steenbock.

Steenbock said they’ve tried to reroute buses to make the routes safer, but unfortunately they still have some 4-year-old kindergartners crossing Highway 15. Steenbock said he worries every day about the safety of students

“Somebody is going to get hurt,” said Steenbock. “It (the highway project) would make a huge difference.”
Governor Tony Evers currently has the Highway 15 bypass project in his proposed biennial budget, but it hasn’t been approved by state legislators.

Now local officials are doing everything in their power to make sure their project makes the cut in Madison.

On Monday, more than a dozen stakeholders gathered in Hortonville to sign a proclamation in support of the highway expansion.

“Don’t kick this project down the road any further. It needs to happen now,” said DeTroye. “I will be real honest, I’m going to be a thorn. I will do it appropriately, but my intention is to push this forward.”