This summer, the medians near one of the busiest intersections in the city were dramatically altered, and the new traffic pattern is causing problems.
The reconstruction near the intersection of Highway 100 and Layton Avenue, the ability for southbound drivers on Highway 100 to turn directly into the three businesses on the northeast corner — , and — was eliminated.
Some believe the convenience of getting an extra value meal or filling a prescription was also axed.
“With the changes they have made to the turn lanes on both 108th and on Layton, it is near impossible to get to and get home from Walgreen's without going way out of my way,” Greenfield resident Lisa Hampel said.
That’s not the only change made with the medians. Here is a list of what drivers can and can’t do while driving through the area:
- can make U-turn in the Layton-Highway 100 intersection;
- can turn left into new Walmart heading east on Layton, but can’t make a U-turn there in order to head back toward Walgreens or Highway 100;
- can’t leave east on Layton toward 92nd Street out of Walgreens;
- can turn right into Walmart or Walgreens heading west on Layton; can access both McDonald’s and NAPA from that Walgreens entrance;
- can turn left into new/old Walmart off Highway 100 at two locations; once in that lot, commuters can drive up short service-style ramp to the businesses on the northeast corner. Northbound Highway 100 commuters can also turn right into Walmart and use that ramp;
- can't turn left out of new/old Walmart onto Highway 100 to head south;
- can leave McDonald’s/NAPA/Walgreens heading north on Highway 100
- can’t make a U-turn north of , and can't turn left out of the theater’s parking lot at its most southern end like you once could.
“I guess it would just be easier not to patronize the Walgreen's there. I don't think that is something you want Greenfield residents to do,” Hampel said. “Walgreen's and McDonald's are getting the shaft. They stand to lose a lot of business, which is in no way their fault except for the fact that they didn't cause a big enough stink about this before it was done.”
Whose idea was it?
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation made the median and traffic-flow changes. According to Stacey Pierce, a DOT traffic safety engineer, the DOT has received complaints regarding the access to the area, but she said the elimination and restrictions of median openings were made to reduce safety risks.
“We appreciate everyone’s patience and willingness to modify their route,” said Pierce, who added more cross access options between businesses should also be available when construction is complete, which could alleviate concerns.
Greenfield Mayor Michael Neitzke washed his hands of the changes. He said the city had nothing to do with the final highway design, which he feels accentuates how DOT decision-making and municipality decision-making are different.
“The DOT’s job is to move traffic. That’s what they do,” he said. “They’re not doing what they do to be evil. Our job is to create economic vitality and livability the best we can. Unfortunately, because they control the highway, they control the ultimate outcome. So moving traffic takes precedence over the economic needs of those businesses on the northeast corner and over the residents in the area that try to get to them.”
It’s not the first time the DOT and city officials disagreed, Neitzke said. The city and businesses along 27th Street fought to keep the 27th Street on- and off-ramps along I-94 open during that highway reconstruction project. Outside of the city, Neitzke pointed to the uproar about ramps being closed on I-94 in West Allis and how the widening of Highway 100 in Hales Corners is impacting businesses there.
“Highway 100 is a vibrant commercial corridor because of the traffic,” Neitzke said. “I think in the end, the decision-making for the highway has to ensure that that vitality is protected. I can’t imagine having a great highway that moves people past businesses that no one can reasonably get to is a good thing.”
Businesses feeling impact
Neighboring businesses are already experiencing the negative economic impact of the changes, which will likely get worse once the multi-million dollar Super Walmart opens this fall. Walgreens manager Matt Mouzakis said business is down 15 percent over the last two and a half months.
“It’s affected us more than 100 customers a day,” he said. “It’s horrible. Every other customer every day is complaining about it. They say we have great service and (they) will keep coming back, but it’s really inconvenient getting in here.”
Mouzakis said it wasn’t until the project was half-completed that he received a fax from the DOT with the final design of the medians and intersection. Dave Mason, manager of NAPA Auto Parts, said he too was left in the dark.
“Nobody talked to me about it,” Mason said. “Until they finished it, I assumed they were putting in a turn there. I had no idea they were blocking the entrance.”
Mason said he’s heard from other NAPA employees that his customers are coming to their stores instead of his.
“Eventually, people might come back, but I don’t blame them,” he said. “Sometimes you want to get in and out. … Sometimes it’s easiest to go straight ahead and on to the next NAPA. I wish I had a better option down the road but they’re not giving us a lot of options.”