YORKVILLE — The Racine County Board on Tuesday night overwhelmingly passed the resolution authorizing methods including eminent domain to acquire land for widening a 2.8-mile stretch of Highway KR.
The 19-2 vote largely puts an end to months of back-and-forth between Mount Pleasant and Somers residents and Racine and Kenosha counties. Kenosha County passed its own resolution with a 14-7 vote on April 16. Both counties’ resolutions will now go to the state Department of Administration for final approval.
The project, funded by $59 million from the state Department of Transportation for design and construction, will widen the road from two to four lanes from 400 feet east of Highway H to just east of Old Green Bay Road while adding a 30- to 36-feet raised median, overpasses for the Union Pacific and Canadian Pacific railroads, a multiuse path, a turn lane and wider shoulders.
Land-acquisition costs will be taken on by the counties. Racine County’s land costs are estimated at $2.5 million, split between 2019 and 2020 with a further $125,000 for compensable utility costs.
About two dozen property owners on both sides of the highway stand to lose land to the revamped roadway, and five structures in Mount Pleasant are set to be torn down to make way for the Canadian Pacific Railroad overpass. The plat approved by the County Board calls for the acquisition of 18.25 acres of land.
County supervisors Fabi Maldonado and Melissa Kaprelian-Becker, both of Racine, voted against the Racine County resolution.
Maldonado said he was hesitant to vote against it because he saw the value in the proposed improvements, but is also sensitive to eminent-domain issues because his family lost property to the process.
Kaprelian-Becker expressed concern that the expanded roadway would lead to environmental issues, especially in the Pike River, but said she was fully in support of the improvements.
Some residents in the project area took issue over the past several months with the size and scope of the project, and also voiced concerns that the speed limit will not be lowered from 45 mph to 35 mph.
A consistent group of locals from both Mount Pleasant and Somers — at times numbering more than 100 — showed up to Racine and Kenosha county meetings to speak against the plans in the past few months, but only a few attended Tuesday night’s meeting.
“Many of our group are not here,” said Leslie Maj, one of the most vocal Mount Pleasant residents from the affected area of KR. “They are disheartened and frustrated.”
Maj left before the vote took place, saying the resolution was practically guaranteed to pass.
Proponents of the widening say the expanded road would allow faster travel from Interstate 94 to Racine and Kenosha while improving safety. The affected stretch of road has a crash rate above the statewide safety threshold, and traffic in the area is expected to double from 9,000 to 9,500 cars daily to 19,000 to 20,000 daily by 2042, according to the DOT.
The DOT made some compromises with residents, including making the median 30 feet instead of 36 feet in certain sections, adding a two-way left turn lane in front of some houses and relocating a portion of the multiuse path on the north side of the road to go behind residences to cut down on the right-of-way required from those houses’ yards.
Racine County Executive Jonathan Delagrave said he was happy to see that the DOT was willing to bend somewhat on its design.
“Local road expansion is one of the hardest things that we do as local government,” he said.