Businesses Concerned Highway 12 Bypass Diverts Customers

Driving on Highway 12 near Wisconsin Dells just got a whole lot easier as a new bypass is now open to traffic.

But while it has been a breeze for commuters, businesses said it has hurt sales.

Don Carroll, senior vice president of Baraboo Candy Company, said sales this past weekend — when the bypass opened — were down significantly.

“Over the three day weekend — Friday, Saturday, Sunday — from the previous week, (it was) about a 40 percent reduction actually,” Carroll said.

The new bypass opened Friday. It diverts five miles of Highway 12 from the interstate, near Wisconsin Dells, to just north of Baraboo. Carroll said that without drive-by traffic, no one knows where is his business is. He said impulse visits from customers are also gone.

Carroll said he’s not alone.

“Without signage telling them how to get down here to us correctly, it’s presented a bigger problem,” Carroll said. “It’s a bigger challenge than we thought it would be.”

John Von Ruden from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation said he and others are working with those businesses to try to minimize the impact. But Von Ruden said the project was all about traffic safety.

He said the project has been in the works for nearly 18 years and finally the five-mile, $43.5 million stretch is open.

Von Ruden said that with any change, it will take time for businesses and motorists to adjust.

“We have heard from some businesses, as we just had opened it last week,” Von Ruden said. “So they’re starting to experience what the new roadway will be like.”

With a very slow weekend, Carroll said he doesn’t like what he has seen so far. He’s asking for help — with signs, to start. Carroll said he also hopes he’s not forgotten by his customers or the DOT.

“It seems that way,” Carroll said. “But hopefully that’s not the case and we can get it corrected quickly.”

The DOT said the big blue signs that are found along the interstate for places like gas stations and restaurants — called Specific Information Signs — will be available to some businesses along the stretch. Businesses must apply to be on the signs, which are made and maintained by a private company and can cost businesses upwards of $30 to $40 per month.

This is phase one of the bypass project. Phase two will start in 2015 at the earliest, and will expand the bypass completely around Baraboo, WISC-TV reported.