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La Crosse mayoral candidates address controversial north-south corridor proposal

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A 25-year-old north-south corridor plan for La Crosse is creating a fork in the road for the city’s mayoral candidates.

Livable Neighborhoods Inc. endorsed Mitch Reynolds because he opposed the plan from the Wisconsin DOT to connect Highway 53 from Holmen to La Crosse through the marsh.

“It would put that four-land road in the marsh, which would then take away some of the marshland and some of the floodplain, which would impact the northside neighborhoods,” Charley Weeth, president of Livable Neighborhoods said.

Weeth said homes and businesses would be lost in the project, and it would impact traffic around Hamilton Elementary. Livable Neighborhoods opposed the 5B-1 plan since 1996.

“It would be devastating for the northside neighborhood and the entire city of La Crosse,” he said.

Reynolds said 5B-1 is not a viable option.

“This process makes no sense for our quality of life and the viability of our neighborhoods,” he said. “It is essential that as we move this city forward in a progressive way, we focus on the quality of life of the people who live in this city.”

Reynold’s opponent in the race, Vicki Markussen, is not accepting endorsements during her campaign for mayor. She says she also opposes having a road through the marsh but explained why she does not want the project removed from the DOT’s plans.

“Keeping that enumerated project on the books is important because as the roads get redone like Hwy 16, we could add in some alternative transportation pieces when it is being done, but we can’t if city-wide this is off the books,” Markussen said.

Reynolds said not matter what the 5B-1 options look like, it will likely put more lanes into and out of La Crosse, through neighborhoods, and in part of the marsh.

“None of those options are reasonable to me,” he said.

Markussen said there is confusion about the project, and her goal is to help educate.

“Everyone thinks that money has to be spent on a road through the marsh, and that is not true,” she said. “We have to address the safety concerns, and it can address existing roads. The DOT has a problem they have to solve. It is safety-driven. They have to create solutions. They have to have a fix.”

Reynolds and Markussen will take part in a debate with WIZM News Tuesday, March 23 at 6:30 p.m. The event will be streamed online, on the WIZM News app, or on 1410 AM, 92.3 FM. The election is Tuesday, April 6.

Kaitlyn Riley’s passion for communications started on her family’s dairy farm in Gays Mills, Wis. Wanting to share agriculture’s story, she studied strategic communications and broadcast journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In college, she held officer positions with the Association of Women in Agriculture and Badger Dairy Club while volunteering as a news reporter for the college radio station. She also founded the university’s first agricultural radio talk show, AgChat. In her professional career, Kaitlyn has worked in radio, print and television news doing everything from covering local events to interviewing presidential candidates, and putting back on her barn boots to chat with farmers in the field. Today, Kaitlyn can be seen covering local stories that matter to you in the La Crosse area.