Project leaders from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) met with members of the DeForest Windsor Area Chamber of Commerce on June 28 to outline the scope and milestones of the study that WisDOT conducted after gathering information to the public. The study is part of a plan to rebuild and repair highways 39, 90 and 94.
Audience engagement is an important aspect of the study, according to WisDOT. Public information meetings are scheduled for September 2022, May 2023 and October 2023 before a public hearing in June 2024 on the preliminary version of the environmental impact study.
WisDOT also includes a Major Projects section on its website, listing frequently asked questions and sections for providing direct feedback on issues.
Planners want to form three citizen advisory committees. The first would include private citizens such as business owners and residents living near the project area. Another group will be local elected officials. The last group would bring in people like local engineers, community planners and public works personnel.
The 29 miles of Interstate Highway is the longest such stretch in the United States, acting as the state’s main freight corridor. Each year, it has 23% of the number of vehicle trucks, transporting 106 billion dollars of cargo. It connects Chicago, Minneapolis, Milwaukee and Madison and provides a connection to the tourist hub of the Wisconsin Dells area.
The Wisconsin River Bridges Project bisects the study outline. This section of highway includes crossings of the Wisconsin River near Portage and in the town of Dekorra. These bridges were built in 1961 during the original construction of the highway and they are nearing the end of their service life. The construction of the replacement bridges is scheduled for 2024-2027. The position of the bridges will change slightly as the state plans to keep interstate traffic three lanes each way during reconstruction.
The state legislature only listed funding for the study phase of the project. The study plan for the project is expected to be completed in 2024. The legislative debate and census could take place in 2025 and several years of work could begin in 2027-28.
This is an environmental study to develop a preferred project alternative that will address security issues, aging infrastructure, and current and future traffic volumes.
Several factors contribute to the need for the project:
The first being the traffic count, which ranges from 40,000 to 108,000 cars per day. The heaviest traffic jams occur on Fridays and Saturdays in the summer. Traffic counts taken in 2021 show higher usage than before the pandemic.
Second, the condition of the pavement. WisDOT project manager Frank Pritzlaff described it as dismal, saying the last major pavement project took place between 1985 and 1992. Pavement conditions and other issues are contributing to the increased number of traffic accidents and lengthen journey times.
The study will not examine eastern bypass alternatives. Any changes would be determined as the study progresses through the development of alternatives, environmental analysis and public engagement activities.
There will also be environmental studies for US-51 (Stoughton Road) from Voges Road at McFarland to the freeway. 19 at DeForest. The studies will assess needs and alternatives in two sections to address land use trends, traffic operations and security needs specific to each section. The southern section of US-51 (Stoughton Road) is between Voges Road and WIS-30, and the northern section of US-51 (Stoughton Road) is between WIS-30 and WIS-19.