Re-routing traffic

Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 11:00 am

Construction crews recently started construction of a bypass around the south side of Burlington. The project is scheduled for completion in late 2010. When it opens the bypass will create access to large amounts of undeveloped farmland. The bypass could spur new development along the new corridor.

The first phase of the bypass project, scheduled to be completed in 2008, begins just north of the intersection of Wisconsin highways 36 and 83 on the north side of the Town of Burlington. The first phase ends on the south side of the town at a second intersection with Highway 83.

The bypass’ second phase, to be built between 2008 and 2010 will stretch from the Town of Rochester on the west to the intersection with Highway 83 on the east.

Officials from Racine County and the town and city of Burlington say development is sure to follow the completion of the bypass. However, what shape that development will take remains to be seen.

The town and city, through Racine County’s Smart Growth Plan, have begun a dialogue on how to best prepare for the bypass.

“The City of Burlington has neighborhood land use plans and existing zoning for portions of where the bypass will be built,” said Dave Torgler, city administrator for Burlington. “The town has an existing land use plan. We’re going through to update our plans and modify them if they need to be.”

Torgler and Diane Baumeister, administrator of the Town of Burlington, said there is not a sense of urgency with planning the project because several years will pass before any potential development can occur. Large stretches of land that will be bypass frontage in the future are currently farm fields far away from major roads.

“Our part is supposed to be done in 2008,” Baumeister said. “We’re just keeping communication open.”

Development along the new bypass is not likely to occur until the entire project is completed, Torgler said. The northeast portion of the road, which comes the closest to the City of Burlington is the final part of the bypass to be built.

“We’ve been watching other bypass projects in other parts of the state and the development proposals seem to follow the completion of the roadway, not proceed it,” he said.

The Burlington Chamber of Commerce views the new bypass as a business opportunity, because it will alleviate downtown congestion caused by large trucks. The chamber may also install some signage along the bypass to direct people to the downtown area and other tourist attractions, said Jan Ludtke, the chamber’s director.

Racine County’s Smart Growth process is scheduled to be completed in 2009, said Julie Anderson, director of planning and economic development for Racine County. Once that process is completed, potential developers will have a blueprint to work with when proposing projects along the new bypass, Torgler said.

The City of Burlington has seen several new commercial projects within its limits in recent years. Those include a new Menard’s, Wendy’s, a Taco Bell/Long John Silvers and a Tractor Supply Co. store.

However, the town hasn’t seen much commercial development. The Smart Growth process is particularly important for the Town of Burlington because of the large amount of land that will be made available after the bypass, Anderson said.

“The bypass cuts through hundreds of acres of farmland, some of which was previously considered prime farmland,” she said. “The town is struggling with what it wants its future to look like. They’re thinking far, far ahead.”

Because of how much land it has available, the town has much larger decisions to make in the planning process,” Anderson said.

“Right now they hold the cards,” she said. “The town could say anything if someone wanted to do a development. There is a whole new variety of opportunities for developments for the town.”

The town’s immediate goals are to retain as much of its rural characteristics as possible, Baumeister said.

“We want it to stay rural,” she said. “It’s not that bad to have some development. But a lot of time some of the development wants services that we can’t provide.”

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