WisDOT costs for changing Ashland Ave name

The possible change of the name of Ashland Ave to Mike McCarthy is a hot topic of discussion these days here in De Pere and in Green Bay and Ashwaubenon. I’ve written two previous posts about it:

Ashland Ave sign on Hwy 41

Ashland Ave sign on Hwy 41

Today I just want to address one small but significant aspect of the proposal, and that is the cost to state taxpayers to change highway signage. At our city council meeting last week, Mayor Walsh told us that Mayor Schmitt (Green Bay) told him that he had been in contact with the Wisconsin DOT and was told that there would not be any added costs to change signage on Hwy 41 because they have to change the signs anyway (due to ongoing highway construction).

I didn’t understand how there could be no cost (many of the new Hwy 41 signs are already up), plus there are more “Ashland Ave” signs than only those on Hwy 41. So I contacted Kim Rudat, the Northeast Region Communications Director for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. I had e-mailed him this week with my questions. I also included a photo I took of the sign on northbound Hwy 41 just south of Grant St in De Pere, which looks brand new. Kim called me back this morning with several points.

We have 18 signs on Hwy 41, Hwy 172 and the Tillman Bridge (Mason St in Green Bay) that mention “Ashland Ave”. All would need to be changed.

To change “Ashland Ave” to “McCarthy Ave”, it would cost the state about $10,000. However, if we change it to the longer “Mike McCarthy Ave”, there would be an additional cost of $390,000 ($400,000 total). This is because there are 5 signs that are too small to fit the longer name. Those signs would need to be replaced, and their respective support structures would also need to be rebuilt.

I want to get this info out there for several reasons. The other streets in the area named for Super Bowl winning coaches are Lombardi Ave (in Green Bay) and Holmgren Way (in Ashwaubenon). Since those streets don’t use the first name, and the proposal before the City Council included using Mike McCarthy’s first name, we discussed the differences between “Mike McCarthy Ave” and “McCarthy Ave”. We also have a business owner on Ashland in De Pere who said it would be much easier for him if we used the simpler and smaller name “McCarthy Ave”. But we never considered the cost in that discussion. We should have. If this whole project is going to cost the state almost a half million dollars, of course that needs to be a consideration.

Now, I don’t know why there’s a discrepancy. Maybe Mayor Schmitt was only talking about a couple of specific signs on Hwy 41. I don’t know for sure. But the comments that were relayed to us at our city council meeting gave the impression that there would be no cost to state taxpayers. Not only is that not true, there is significant cost.

Last, Rudat was very clear in telling me that the state DOT will work with the local community and follow our lead. By giving me the costs, they are not taking sides or making any recommendation. He acknowledged that the Packers are an important organization to the entire state. And if we change the name of the street, then of course the state would want their signage to direct drivers accurately.

By sharing this information, I’m not suggesting that cost alone should make our decision. But it’s important for us to know the costs, whatever they are. And since every taxpayer in the state would pay, maybe we will now get feedback from neighbors outside of De Pere, Ashwaubenon, and Green Bay.

UPDATE: Wed, Jul 10, 2013 9:00pm

I spoke to Mayor Walsh tonight. He’s pretty surprised about these numbers and feels they may be wrong. Originally, he had only relayed what was told to him. So he will call his contact at WisDOT to confirm. Stay tuned.