Wisconsin’s Transportation Projects Commission (TPC) today recommended to the Legislature and Governor that two Major Highway Project candidates be enumerated or added to the list for construction in the next state budget including a 14-mile section of I-43 in Milwaukee and Ozaukee counties, and a 7.5-mile segment of I-94 in St. Croix County. A third project, a 4.4-mile section of WIS 50 in Kenosha County, received immediate approval as a Major Highway Project via the TPC’s statutory authority related to high-cost rehabilitation projects (State Statute 84.013(1)(a)2m).
“Strategic investments in our comprehensive transportation system are essential for the safe and efficient movement of people to jobs and commerce to markets,” said Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker who chairs the 15-member TPC. “The Major Highway Projects being recommended for construction have undergone years of careful analysis, require significant upgrades to address aging infrastructure, traffic congestion and safety concerns, and hold tremendous potential to generate economic activity.” Major Highway Project candidates acted on include:
· I-43 in Milwaukee and Ozaukee counties. Constructed in the mid-1950’s and 60’s, this 14-mile segment of I-43 between Silver Spring Drive and WIS 60 is part of a state and federally-designated long truck route and serves as an economic gateway to Green Bay, Milwaukee and beyond. Along with pavements that have exceeded their life expectancy, numerous bridges, curves and ramps no longer meet design standards, and cannot accommodate current and projected traffic volumes. Current traffic volume reaches up to 84,000 vehicles daily, and is expected to increase to up to 101,000 vehicles in 20 years. About 40 percent of the corridor has crash rates exceeding the statewide average for similar roadways. Proposed improvements include reconstructing the corridor with three travel lanes in each direction, replacing the partial interchange at County Line Road with a full-access interchange, and constructing a new interchange at Highland Road. The remaining interchanges and most of the bridges within the corridor would be rebuilt. The estimated cost is $448 million.
· I-94 in St. Croix County. Constructed in the late 1950’s, this 7.5-mile segment of I-94 between US 12 and WIS 65 is a federally-designated truck route that serves as a major commuter and commerce link between the Twin Cities and St. Croix County. Pavement and bridge deficiencies along the segment require full redesign and reconstruction. Current traffic along the corridor reaches up to 46,400 vehicles daily, and is expected to increase to up to 69,100 vehicles in 20 years. About 50 percent of the corridor has crash rates exceeding the statewide average for similar roadways. Proposed improvements include reconstruction of the existing freeway and addition of a third lane in each direction to create a six-lane divided highway between US 12 and WIS 65. The estimated cost is $129 million.
· WIS 50 in Kenosha County. This 4.4-mile segment of WIS 50 between I-94 and 43rd Avenue in Kenosha is an oversized, overweight truck route that also serves a variety of local and regional commuters. Bridges that carry WIS 50 traffic over two railways and 77th Avenue are narrow, have undergone numerous repairs and require replacement. Current traffic along the corridor reaches up to 36,700 vehicles daily, and is expected to increase to up to 46,800 vehicles in 20 years. About 70 percent of the corridor has crash rates exceeding the statewide average for similar roadways. Proposed improvements include reconstruction of the existing four-lane highway and addition of a third lane in each direction to create a six-lane facility between the Interstate and 57th Avenue. The estimated cost is $93 million.
Also Monday, the TPC:
· Cancelled the WIS 81/WIS 213 Beloit Bypass study project in Rock County. Both the Illinois and Wisconsin DOT’s recommended cancellation of the study due to a lack of local support. The cost-to-complete estimate is $9.3 million.
· Cancelled the WIS 38 (County K to Oakwood Road) Major Highway Project in Milwaukee and Racine counties. WisDOT has suspended work on the project due largely to a lack of local consensus on a preferred alignment. The cost-to-complete estimate is $124 million.
· Removed the US 14 Viroqua – Westby Major Highway Project in Vernon County from the Major Highway Program because the project is considered complete. In 2011, construction was completed on a four-lane highway between the communities. The original project scope also called for two-lane bypasses of Viroqua and Westby, however recent traffic projections show that construction of the bypasses is not needed at this time. The cost-to-complete estimate is $42.4 million.
Major Highway Project candidates undergo an extensive, statutorily-set evaluation that considers a project’s potential to enhance economic development, relieve traffic congestion, improve safety and achieve community objectives while minimizing environmental impacts. To move forward, candidate projects must undergo an environmental review process. State law prohibits the TPC from recommending major highway projects unless funding is sufficient to begin construction within six years.
The TPC is a public/private commission that includes the Governor, five state senators, five Assembly representatives and three citizen members who review, approve, and make recommendations regarding Major Highway Projects in Wisconsin. The full Legislature and Governor will make final decisions on the I-43 and I-94 recommendations as part of the 2015 – 2017 biennial state budget.
The 2011 – 13 state budget revised the definition of a Major Highway Project as a project that has a total cost of over $30 million and involves at least one of the following: constructs a new highway route of 2.5 miles or more in length; reconstructs or reconditions an existing highway by either relocating 2.5 miles or more of the existing highway or adding one or more lanes five miles or more in length to an existing highway; improves to freeway standards 10 miles or more of an existing divided highway having two or more lanes in either direction. State law (84.013(1)(a)2m) also specifies that any project with a total cost of over $75 million can also qualify as a Major Highway Project. More information about Major Highway Projects in Wisconsin can be found on the WisDOT website at: www.dot.wisconsin.gov/projects/state/sixyear/major.htm.