Action by the Barron County Highway Committee on Thursday, Jan. 7, has set the ball rolling on changes to a busy intersection in the city of Rice Lake.

The committee voted to allocate up to $30,000 for a traffic study at the intersection of CTH O and Decker Drive (by Menards).

Highway Commissioner Mark Servi said the actual cost will likely be closer to $25,000.

Servi said he had been in contact with the City of Rice Lake about a traffic study for some time, but the city and county could not agree on how to pay for it.

Servi said Rice Lake officials indicated they didn’t have the funds and that their focus was on the reconstruction of Main Street, which was last paved in 2010.

“All of this wrangling over the study wasn’t getting us anywhere,” said Servi. “We don’t have a study, but we still have a bad intersection.”

The county’s four-lane road (CTH O) is crossed by Decker Drive, which provides access to several businesses on the north and south sides of the road. Stop signs on Decker Drive are the only traffic controls for the busy intersection. On average 15,500 vehicles drive on that section of CTH O per day, making it the most used road in Barron County, according to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

Servi asked the highway committee to proceed with the study for the sake of improving the county road system.

“We need to get off the schneid,” he said.

Servi said there are a few options: Close off the intersection so that Decker Drive becomes right-turn only, install traffic signals or build a roundabout.

Servi said a roundabout would be the highest cost option, but traffic signals aren’t cheap either, because the cost of maintaining them continues every year.

While there isn’t any room for more development on the south side of the road, Servi noted development on the north side could add more traffic to the area.

In fact, a 50,000-square foot medical complex is proposed in an area along the west side of Wisconsin Avenue, and additional streets are planned in the long-term to connect to Decker Drive. Plans were on the agenda for Rice Lake City Council’s meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 12.

Servi said he is hopeful the City of Rice Lake will help finance eventual improvements to the intersection, though that may be years down the road.

“They said they have other priorities and I respect that, but it’s still a joint intersection,” he said.

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