The intersection of Pilgrim and Burleigh roads may get upgrades if Waukesha County Executive Dan Vrakas' five-year capital plan is approved.
In that plan, unveiled this month, Vrakas proposes an estimated $1 million in improvements to the intersection, including the installation of permanent traffic lights and reconfiguration of turn lanes, said Gary Evans, manager of the county's Highway Engineering Division.
Those safety upgrades are needed as the county's population continues to grow, Vrakas said.
Waukesha County is the third-most populated county in the state, and it's growing. In 2012, the U.S. Census' tally was 392,292 people, up 0.6 percent from 2010's count of 388,891.
"These improvements are required to prevent traffic delays and accidents as well as to meet the needs of the county's growing population," Vrakas said.
Traffic volume also is a factor, Evans said. The intersection was included in the 2014-18 plan because it was engineered in the late 1990s, before daily traffic counts reached today's high of 13,000 vehicles traveling on Pilgrim Road each day and 8,600 traveling on Burleigh.
That's causing traffic congestion along Pilgrim Road especially, as well as complaints about rear-end collisions, he said, although he did not have a specific accident toll for the intersection.
Shawn Lundie, Vrakas' chief of staff, said traffic flow and delays — not just crash rates — play an important role in how the county's Signals and Safety program assesses intersections to determine which are in need of safety improvements.
"It's not necessarily the number of accidents," he said. "In some cases, it's the potential for accidents."
And that potential is real, Evans said.
"There are back-ups in the peak hours," he said. "There are rear-end accident problems."
For those reasons, Evans said, construction design plans would look at redrawing turn lanes, especially left-turn lanes, as drivers presently have limited views of oncoming traffic.
But all options are on the table, said Allison Bussler, the county's director of public works.
"We're at the point where we'll look at multiple options," she said, adding that even the cost figure is not definite.
If the capital plan is approved, Evans said, the first step would be to hire a designer after Jan. 1, 2014, when funds for the project would be released.
A contractor would be hired afterward, with construction not beginning until the summer of 2015.
The project would be entirely funded by the county, Bussler said, "unless there's a decision by the city to add extras, if you will, like sidewalks."
Yet the proposal is contingent on the Waukesha County Board's adoption of the capital plan; it is expected to vote on the matter in November.
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