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Opponents of north-south corridor plan celebrate state decision to kill the project

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“The damn road is dead.”

That reaction from Charley Weeth was one of many expressions of happiness and relief at a La Crosse community center on Thursday, marking the state’s announcement that it will stop planning for a North-South corridor through a local marsh.

Weeth led the group Livable Neighborhoods for years, especially during the 1998 referendum campaign to suspend city funding for a road through the La Crosse River marsh. 

Carol Erickson remembers that night the voters said “no” to the highway.

She recalls “standing on a table at Jules’ coffee shop, with everybody screaming and saying ‘We won, we won, this is the end.'”    

But the referendum result didn’t lead the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to take the $140 million corridor plan off its list of future projects. DOT experts have contended for years that heavy traffic on La Crosse area roads might justify a new highway, and opponents would respond that the state wasn’t listening to them.

Until this week, when the DOT announced support for improving existing La Crosse area highways instead.    

La Crosse city council member Chris Kahlow, another long-time foe of the highway project, says local politicians all used to be in favor of the corridor until recent years.

Current Mayor Mitch Reynolds campaigned against the corridor plan before he was elected this year, and he says the drive against the corridor has shaped his political thinking.

“My perspective on roads and neighborhoods was formed in large part by that tremendous effort by our community to say no to that road,” says Reynolds, who moved to La Crosse a few years before the referendum.

The DOT says it will now focus on ways to improve the existing north-south highways in La Crosse, including U.S. 53 and state Highways 16 and 35.

A native of Prairie du Chien, Brad graduated from UW - La Crosse and has worked in radio news for more than 30 years, mostly in the La Crosse area. He regularly covers local courts and city and county government. Brad produces the features "Yesterday in La Crosse" and "What's Buried on Brad's Desk." He also writes the website "Triviazoids," which finds odd connections between events that happen on a certain date, and he writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse. Brad been featured on several national TV programs because of his memory skills.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. ChipBoundary

    December 17, 2021 at 10:55 am

    The road could have easily been built OVER the marsh, but no, our city is full of morons. Proven by the fact that in the first snowstorm of the year, 1/3 of all accidents in the entire state happened in La Crosse.

    There’s really nothing they can do to the existing corridors to alleviate the issue. There’s no physical space for them to be wider. There’s too many useless roundabouts being built that disrupt the flow of traffic. The leadership, and citizens, of this county are inept on a level that is almost unfathomable.

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