December 8, 2020 2:45 PM, EST

Wisconsin Panel OKs Updates to Highway Near Madison

Wisconsin highwayTrucks travel on Interstate 39/90 between Madison and Beloit in south-central Wisconsin. (Wisconsin Department of Transportation)

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MADISON, Wis. — A state commission on Dec. 8 approved roughly $174 million in updates to an 18-mile stretch of highway near Madison.

The project, approved unanimously by the state Transportation Projects Commission, would provide pavement updates, add multiple roundabout intersections and enhance safety for vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians along the length of U.S. Route 51 from the Beltline to the interchange with Interstate 90. Construction is slated to begin in 2025.

Also, TPC approved the $141 million replacement of the I-39/I-90/I-94 bridges over the Wisconsin River in Columbia County. Final design of the project will begin next year, and construction could start as soon as 2024.

Gov. Tony Evers, who serves as commission chair, described the two projects as “good strategic investments that will reduce travel time, increase safety and serve people across Wisconsin.”

“The bridges where our three interstate highways come together serve freight traffic bound for destinations across the state, and U.S. 51 will be critically needed to support a growing region and business community,” Evers said in a statement.

Updated bridge structures also would allow for potential expansion to allow four lanes of traffic.

The bridge project also falls within the 63-mile corridor of I-39/I-90 between Madison and Wisconsin Dells being considered for expansion to address safety and congestion concerns.

Jeff Gust, director of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s Bureau of State Highway Programs, said freight traffic in the corridor increased as much as 11% from 2015-2019. Freight trucks make up 25% of all daily traffic on the stretch of interstate, and the three counties that span the project make up nearly 20% of the state’s total tourism revenue.

“These are really high congestion rates for this area and something we really have to be concerned about,” Gust said.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation plans to restart a study of the project and eventually come back before the commission to recommend approval. Wisconsin DOT Secretary Craig Thompson said it could be a couple of years before the study is completed.

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