Highway 51 Revisited
7:57 pm
Tue August 27, 2013

Milder Plan for Hazelhurst, Cassian Highway Reconstruction

State Department of Transportation officials took public comment Tuesday on a plan to reconstruct parts of Highway 51 south of Minocqua.  A thin crowd gathered at a hearing in Harshaw.

Members of the public also had a chance to review preliminary plans for the replacement of the Bearskin Trail Bridge.
Credit Natalie Jablonski

The DOT says changes to Highway 51 are necessary to improve safety.   But an earlier DOT proposal prompted community outcry, as it involved turning a stretch north of Highway Y into a four lane road and widening the bridge over Lake Katherine.  Hazelhurst Town Chair Ted Cushing says the original changes were too dramatic, but he’s much happier with the revised plan.

“They’ve made compromises, we’ve made compromises.  It’s been a very interesting journey.  And I have to pay them a compliment – they’ve been willing to bend, we’ve been willing to bend.”

The DOT is now favoring a plan to build a new 2 lane road on the west side of the current highway, and add passing lanes in key areas.  

Community members reviewed detailed plans of the six acres of wetlands that would be impacted by the Highway 51 construction.
Credit Natalie Jablonski

Six buildings will have to be permanently relocated.  One of those is a warehouse owned by Harry Lenius.  He’s critical of the proposal that would destroy his storage facility.

“It’s my business, it’s my retirement.  It’s what we developed about 8 or 10 years ago.  We’ve got customers, a building full.  We’ve got people with 6 month or year leases.  We were hoping to retire off off it, I’m at the age where I don’t want to build a new one, I don’t want to take money and go start over.”

Lenius says the DOT should build on the other side of the highway, because there are no structures across the street.  But the DOT says building on the west side interferes with fewer structures overall.  

TAG:  Public comment on details of the proposal will be taken until September 11th.