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Janesville Interstate interchange could be the first of its kind in the state

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Jim Leute
August 2, 2013

JANESVILLE—Local motorists still struggling with roundabouts could have a whole new concept to navigate if the state goes ahead with an interchange concept that would be the first of its kind in Wisconsin.

The state's Department of Transportation is considering two alternatives for the Highway 26 interchange with the Interstate, which will be widened starting in 2015.

One would be a fairly conventional diamond interchange with three through-lanes and two left-turn lanes in both directions of Highway 26, or Milton Avenue as it's known in Janesville.

The other, however, would be a new type of interchange that is gaining traction though it is in use in only a handful of other states, said Todd Hertz of KL Engineering, a state consultant on the project that ultimately would widen the Interstate to six lanes—eight lanes through Janesville—from the Wisconsin-Illinois line to the Beltline in Madison.

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.

In the case of the Milton Avenue interchange, Hertz said such an interchange would cut in half the number of ways vehicles could collide.

It also would handle more traffic as drivers make free-flow right and left turns onto the Interstate, he said, adding that overheads signs, pavement markings and traffic signals would guide drivers.

Hertz played an animated video of how the interchange works that the Utah Department of Transportation prepared for a specific interchange in that state.

A similar interchange also is under consideration for the Avalon Road interchange, he said.

About 75 people showed up Thursday at a public information session for the project's central segment, which runs from County O to the Rock-Dane County line.

Given the opportunity, attendees voiced questions and concerns about a number of issues.

Highway 59 interchange

The department is proposing a diamond interchange with the Interstate that will include roundabouts at the two ramp intersections.

The Highway 59-Goede Road intersection to the east also will have a roundabout that would provide access to a proposed park-and-ride lot.

A raised median on Highway 59 would allow only right-hand turns to and from Mallwood Drive and Richardson Springs Road. That raised safety concerns in the crowd, as well as questions about impeded access to existing businesses.

Derek Potter, the state's project manager for the central segment, said the third roundabout was included at the request of officials in the towns of Fulton and Milton who are concerned about safety.

Another state official said the series of three roundabouts would be larger and designed differently than the three roundabouts on Highway 59 near the Highway 26 bypass east of Milton.

Noise barriers

Officials have scheduled a public meeting from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 27 at Marshall Middle School for a discussion of barriers that are primarily proposed for the Interstate's run through Janesville's east side.

The most significant barrier would run from Highway 14 to the Palmer Drive overpass on the east side of the Interstate. On the west side, it would run from Highway 14 to Milwaukee Street, skip Marshall Middle School, and then pick up just north of Ruger Avenue and run south to the dog walk area of Palmer Park.

While anyone can attend the meeting, only those properties designated as feasible and reasonable under a strict set of federal guidelines will be eligible to vote on the barriers. A majority vote of the returned ballots for several different segments will be required for the barriers to be built.

Affected residents will get ballots and information in mid-August and will have until Sept. 27 to return their ballots.

Park-and-rides

The department has proposed the parking areas for the Highway 59 interchange at Newville and at the Racine Street interchange in Janesville.

Hertz said the department also is considering a lot in the area of the interchanges at Highway 14 and 26 to the north.

“Every time we open one up, we don't seem to have any problem filling it up,” he said.

That seemed to please some in attendance who voiced concerns about commuters parking their vehicles in the lots of private businesses for extended periods of time.

Alternate routes

State officials will primarily rely on Highways 14 and 51 as alternate routes for heavy construction periods on the Interstate, Hertz said.

For that to happen, state officials said, several local road intersections would need improvement.

 



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