The Highway KR expansion project is moving forward.

After receiving plat approval from the Kenosha County Board in April, the Racine County Board followed with a 19-2 vote on Tuesday to pass a land acquisition resolution to widen a 2.8-mile stretch on Highway KR from Highway H to Old Green Bay Road.

The resolutions need final approval from the state Department of Administration.

“The major hurdles are cleared, with both boards approving the plat plan,” Director of Kenosha County Public Works Ray Arbet said. “That’s basically what sets the table to develop the design for construction.”

The project, estimated to cost $30 million to $50 million, is being funded by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. It was proposed to support the Foxconn development, which is planned north of Highway KR between I-94 and Highway H.

Highway KR will soon become a six-lane highway from I-94 to Highway H. Officials decided to expand the highway east of Highway H to avoid a bottleneck that would result from the roadway going from six lanes to two.

That would be a huge liability and a civil engineering nightmare, according to Arbet.

Residents opposed

The project received plenty of opposition from Somers and Mount Pleasant residents living along Highway KR. About two dozen property owners are in line to lose either a portion or all of their property.

Arbet said all five of the “full-take” properties are on the Racine County side of the road.

“Obviously, it’s going to radically change the landscape for the folks who live along Highway KR,” Arbet said. “It won’t be a two-lane country road anymore.

“The folks that are directly affected are very concerned, and understandably so. For the larger part of both communities, what is going to happen is not only an improvement from a safety standpoint but an improvement in economical development and public infrastructure.”

First phase progressing

The first phase of the Highway KR project, from I-94 to Highway H, is progressing nicely, according to Arbet.

The three westbound lanes are expected to be finished in July, with the entire project completed before the end of this year.

The second phase of the project, from Highway H to Old Green Bay Road, is expected to begin in late 2020.

“We’ll move into design development, formal construction-level drawings, enter negotiations with property owners for right-of-way acquisitions and take care of any utility issues,” Arbet said. “All of that has to be done before construction starts.”

Residents expressed concerns about the future speed limit on Highway KR. Many suggested it be lowered to 35 mph or even 25 mph from Highway H to Old Green Bay Road.

That’s not realistic or safe, according to Arbet.

“People will drive the speed that’s appropriate for the roadway,” Arbet said. “People think that lowering the speed limit creates a safer condition when in reality it often creates unsafe conditions. Lowering the speed limit would create a lot of cutting and weaving, and that’s when accidents happen.”

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