On September 30 representatives of the WI Department of Transportation (DOT), the City of Whitewater, and the Walworth County Sheriff’s Department, together with State Senator Janis Ringhand, and State Representative Don Vruwink met with the public to discuss the recent improvements to the 12/N intersection and receive feedback.
A double-fatality crash had occurred on August 1, followed by a single fatality crash on August 8. DOT had indicated that improvements to the intersection were scheduled for the summer of 2020. A meeting between DOT and state, county and local representatives was held on August 20 to discuss what could be done on a more timely basis. DOT installed a camera from August 22-28 to monitor the intersection. On August 24 they implemented flashing yellow left turn arrows for traffic in all four directions. DOT representatives indicated that the surveillance for the several days after the installation of the flashing arrows showed that most drivers were waiting to enter the intersection until oncoming traffic was clearing, and that the northbound Hwy 12 traffic turning to Hwy N was generally allowing for larger gaps in oncoming traffic before turning. No crashes have been reported since that date.
Members of the public generally expressed the feeling that the flashing yellow turn lights have improved the safety of the intersection. Friends of the families who were involved in the first crash emotionally stated their belief that the DOT waited too long to make improvements, as there have been approximately 40 crashes since January, 2015.
Suggestions from community members for other possible safety enhancements included: 1) Reduce the speed limit at the intersection or throughout the bypass to 45 m.p.h.; 2) Change the left turn signals to red and green; 3) Install warning lights approximately 800′ before the intersection to flash when the signals are about to change; 4) Install on/off ramps.
DOT indicated that they would take the suggestions into consideration and will continue to monitor all three bypass intersections. Some additional improvements are still scheduled for next summer. The representatives acknowledged that the bypass was designed to be a four-lane highway, with that configuration not anticipated to be constructed for the foreseeable future.