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At a Crossroads: Rhinelander drivers at odds over what to do with "notorious" intersectionSubmitted: 12/06/2017
Lane Kimble
Lane Kimble
News Director
lkimble@wjfw.com

At a Crossroads: Rhinelander drivers at odds over what to do with
RHINELANDER - When talking about one of Rhinelander's busiest crossroads at the intersection of highways 47 and 8, it seems fitting for people to take opposite sides about its safety.

"I thought it was safe," Rhinelander resident Hugh O'Hagan said.  "I've never seen any problems there."

"The speed, probably [is a problem there,]" driver Craig Froehlich said.  "It needs to be slower."


But for Rhinelander Police Officer Chad Brown, there's no doubt in his mind.

"It's fairly notorious for crashes," Brown said.

Brown says he's personally responded to at least 20 crashes at the intersection, which meet near the Oneida County Highway Department.

"(I tell my family to) try to avoid it if you can at certain hours," Brown said.

One crash in particular will stick with Brown. A woman died after a two-car crash there in June 2013. Brown says most calls at the intersection are for t-bones.

"It's more impact, there's not as much energy release at the end of the crash. It's more sudden stops and that's what causes more injury," Brown said.

Police and the Department of Transportation agree on the potential safety issues at the intersection. Beyond aging pavement full of potholes, cars looking to turn left can't always see around cars in the opposite direction, which can block the view of oncoming traffic. The DOT believes it has two potential fixes."

"It'll be significant work," DOT Project Supervisor Dan Evra said.

The DOT recorded 28 crashes at the intersection between 2012 and 2016. Eight people were hurt in those crashes along with the one woman killed. Evra is looking at plans to either build offset left turn lanes or install a roundabout in 2019.

"Safety is one of our top priorities," Evra said. "It's very important that the intersection be safe and either alternative that we have chosen does address the safety of the intersection."

Evra says offset left-turn lanes make for better sight lines while roundabouts slow traffic and turn t-bone crashes into sideswipes. The DOT hasn't decided what to do yet, but it's the roundabout that has people talking in Rhinelander.

"I think a roundabout's a stupid idea... They're confusing to most people and they just seem unnecessary," O'Hagan said.

"Most people don't know how to negotiate them," Froehlich said. "The right of ways and whatnot. Just yield to your left, is all you gotta do."

Learning how to drive one might be a moot point in Rhinelander, although Merrill and Wausau both feature them. The DOT won't decide what to do until 2018.

Officer Brown hopes something changes before long.

"I've responded to too many crashes and I hope to not have to respond to any more injury accidents at this intersection," Brown said.

People can share their thoughts and opinions at a public meeting in Rhinelander on Dec. 12. The meeting at City Hall starts at 5:30. More details about the plans can be found via the link below this story.

Related Weblinks:
Wis DOT Highway 8 and 47 Project Proposals

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On Thursday, the Rhinelander Police Department shared a concerning Facebook post in hopes of getting some accurate information. 

The police department became aware of a post made in a page on Facebook. The post describes a suspicious white van patrolling a neighborhood off Driscoll Road. 
 
The author of the original post claimed two men were in the van approaching children.

Police Chief Lloyd Gauthier says any suspicious activity should be reported directly to the police department. 

"We need to be able to have that face-to-face conversation so we can ask those specific questions so that we get facts and not just a bunch of hearsay or rumor mill," said Gauthier. "We really need to know exactly what the information is." 

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He thinks you should welcome the new season for the plants in your yard, too.

"A healthy plant makes it through the winter a lot better than a stressed plant," he said. "We want to shut them down so they can prepare themselves for the winter time."

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State School Superintendent Tony Evers presented WJFW's Ben Meyer and other PIE members with the award during a ceremony at the capitol.

"It felt great considering that we are [a smaller] school… it's pretty amazing to be recognized as one of the five making a difference in education in the state," said PIE Vice President Teri Maney.

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