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2015 could be busy for Interstate alternative route

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Jim Leute
August 13, 2014

JANESVILLE—Local motorists will start seeing a significant amount of roadwork as early as next spring as preparations continue for a $950 million expansion of Interstate 90/39.

State transportation officials said next year would be an active one for the alternate route that will take travelers off the Interstate at Racine Street on Janesville's south side and funnel them back to I-90/39 north of Edgerton.

In between, the official alternate route includes highways 14 and 51.

It also includes 17 intersections or areas that will be improved with new turn lanes and traffic signals in 2015.

“The idea is to make it a better thruway for those who want to use it as an alternate to the Interstate,” said Wayne Chase, a project supervisor with the state Department of Transportation.

Chase and other DOT officials and consultants were in Janesville on Tuesday for an update on the local aspects of the 45-mile project from the Illinois state line to the Beltline in Madison.

Most of their focus was on the project's central segment, a 13-mile stretch that runs from County O on Janesville's south side to the Rock/Dane county line.

Janesville City Council member Doug Marklein pointed out a couple of areas of concern with the DOT's official alternate route.

“Wright Road between Racine Street and Highway 14 is a well-known shortcut in Janesville,” Marklein said. “I think people will take that instead of going all the way out Racine Street to Highway 14, and that will create problems on Wright Road.”

Chase responded that would become an issue for local law enforcement.

“We can't tell people not to use a road they're legally using,” he said.

Marklein also wondered whether the DOT would be able to exert any control over the Wisconsin & Southern Railroad and its crossing of Highway 14—the official alternate—at peak travel times.

Todd Hertz of KL Engineering, a state consultant on the project, said the DOT has no power to stop the trains.

But electronic message boards will alert motorists when trains are expected, he said.

INTERCHANGES

The most complicated interchange in the central segment will be the I-90/39 intersections with highways 26 and 14, where one interchange with added lanes will replace the two existing interchanges.

Complicating the situation will be a redesigned mainline, which is the Interstate itself, that will include four lanes in each direction between Highway 26 and Avalon Road.

All other sections of the Interstate in the 45-mile project will be widened from two lanes in each direction to three.

In the neighborhood of highways 14 and 26, the new Interstate also will include two additional lanes in each direction that will funnel motorists on and off the Interstate.

The four additional collector/distributor lanes will bring to 12 the total number of lanes in that area.

Rather than loop interchanges, the Highway 14 and Highway 26 interchange will be redesigned as diamond intersections fed by additional collector/distributor lanes.

Highway 26's meeting with the Interstate will feature a diverging diamond interchange, a new type of interchange that is becoming more popular around the country.

The diverging diamond interchange, sometimes called a double crossover diamond, is designed to increase capacity and safety, decrease congestion and minimize the cost of new infrastructure, according to a department handout.

For the Milton Avenue interchange, officials have said a diverging diamond would cut in half the number of ways vehicles could collide.

It also would handle more traffic as drivers make free-flow left turns onto the Interstate.

The concept is so new to Wisconsin that the diverging diamond on Milton Avenue would be just the second in the state. The state's first is proposed for the Avalon Road interchange a few miles south.

In the area, the DOT also is planning a connection from Ryan Road on the west side of the Interstate to Deerfield Drive on the east.

The DOT last fall wrapped up construction of the redesigned interchange at Racine Street. It features roundabouts, which also are planned for Highway 59 at Newville and County N near Stoughton.

MAINLINE CONSTRUCTION

Other than the work on the alternate route, the only significant construction planned in the central segment for 2015 will be on a two-mile stretch of the Interstate from Knutson Road to the Rock/Dane county line.

Next year will also feature the start of a three-year project to replace the Interstate bridges over the Rock River at Newville.

In addition, the bridge at Manogue Road will be reconstructed next year.

Most of the major mainline construction is scheduled to start in 2016.

PROCEED WITH CAUTION

DOT spokesman Steve Theisen said his department's projections are just estimates at this point.

Much still needs to be determined in terms of funding of the project, he said.

That's because the state faces a transportation budget shortfall of between $600 million and $700 million for the next biennium, which runs July 1, 2015, to June 30, 2017.



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