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Economic development - Highway Improvement Program region examples 

The following are examples of Highway Improvement projects, listed by transportation region, and their relationship to economic development.

Southwest region

Dane County: East Washington Avenue (US 151) is one of the most popular gateways to downtown Madison. It hosts numerous business establishments, and serves thousands of commuters and other travelers daily. The deterioration of the pavement from decades of heavy traffic necessitated a full reconstruction project staged over several years.

Reconstruction allowed for installation of bicycle lanes, improvement of pedestrian crossings, replacement of water mains and sewers, and other upgrades to the infrastructure and design along the corridor. The corridor’s final features will be installed in 2010. 

Iowa, Lafayette, and Grant Counties: US 151, from Dodgeville to Dickeyville, has been reconstructed from a two-lane rural to a four-lane divided expressway. Bypasses of Mineral Point, Belmont, and Platteville preserved the historic character of these communities while fostering development near interchanges. Overall, economic development has been promoted by improving access for businesses and improving traffic flow to many area tourist sites. The long-term cost savings include preservation of an unrecorded mound group and wayside mining sites, mitigation of archaeology sites and floodways, and relocation of streams in partnership with the Department of Natural Resources. Furthermore, a new bikeway will also promote efficient use of alternative modes of transportation. 

Rock, Jefferson, and Dodge Counties:

Wisconsin State Highway 26 is undergoing a multi-year upgrade which will eventually bring the entire corridor to four-lane divided expressway status. STH 26 is the main corridor between major distribution centers along I-39 in Northern Illinois and the Fox Valley manufacturing centers of Oshkosh, Appleton, Neenah, and Menasha. As such, it is designated as a long-truck route in the National Highway System and as a connector route in WisDOT's State Highway Plan 2020. Over the 70-mile stretch between the City of Janesville and the City of Waupun, STH 26 passes through 24 units of government, including three counties, six cities, two villages, and thirteen towns. As part of the upgrade, three new bypasses are being built – Milton, Jefferson, and Watertown. In addition, the Fort Atkinson bypass will be expanded to four lanes.

Southeast Region

Milwaukee, Racine, and Kenosha Counties:

The I-94 South Corridor project will upgrade 35 miles of the state’s busiest Interstate Highway between Milwaukee and the Illinois state line. The 8-year project (2009-2016) will ensure this vital connection between Southeastern Wisconsin and the Chicago Area will continue to provide a safe, predictable route for people and goods. Counties on both sides of the Illinois/Wisconsin border have faced rapid growth in population and employment, bringing with them large increases in auto and truck traffic. Kenosha County has been active in growing existing and recruiting new manufacturing and distribution businesses, including Jockey Apparel, Snap-On Tools, and Super-Valu Foods. More than 1,500 acres of industrial/business parks in Kenosha County have already been developed; another 900 acres are zoned for future development. This project will add a lane in each direction, preventing bottlenecks at the Illinois border where US 41 and I-94 come together as they enter Wisconsin. Further, bridges will be rebuilt to withstand heavier loads, while on- and off-ramps will be redesigned for safer operation – in most cases, eliminating dangerous interactions with frontage roads. 

Waukesha County: When I-43 needed to be resurfaced, planners and designers determined that two interchanges – Moorland Road (CTH O) and STH 164 – needed to be rebuilt. Rapid residential and commercial growth has occurred in this part of Southeastern Wisconsin; several industrial and distribution firms have also built new/expanded facilities along this corridor. The reconstruction of these interchanges during 2009 allowed WisDOT to address current operational and capacity deficiencies, while also allowing future development to continue. Other benefits include safety improvements, accommodation of future traffic volumes, and reduced maintenance costs. 

Waukesha and Washington Counties: North of I-94, STH 164 passes through a mix of suburban residential and commercial development, business parks, wetlands, and semi-rural landscapes. Traffic volumes have steadily increased with population increases; traffic congestion and safety are now critical issues. Further, traffic is expected to continue to grow 50 percent over the next 20 years. Portions of this 18-mile corridor have steep hills, blind intersections and many access points that affect safety and traffic flow.

A full range of improvements to STH 164 studied were studied over a 5-year period. Citizens and public officials were asked to review, comment on and help determine the best approaches to these improvements. These contributions helped shape the preferred alternative for the road’s reconstruction. 

The project is being phased in, based on funding and traffic volumes. An initial 7.7-mile segment at the project’s southern end (from I-94 to Jay Lane) was constructed in 2003-2005. Over time, STH 164 will be rebuilt into a four-lane divided roadway with a 30-foot-wide grass median separating northbound and southbound travel lanes. Such features will ensure that the area’s mix of commercial businesses, offices, and light industrial manufacturing and distribution can continue to develop without concern of transportation system safety and reliability.

In segments where traffic will be below the threshold for reconstruction in the foreseeable future, four-lane improvements will be implemented through corridor preservation and interim two-lane improvements will be implemented when safety, pavement condition, and/or capacity concerns indicate the need.

Construction for the middle segment (north of Howard Lane) will occur only when or if traffic volumes in those areas of the project reach the four-lane threshold volume of 13,000 vehicles per day. This is not expected until after 2010. Traffic volumes in Washington County are not expected to reach 13,000 vehicles per day until 2025 or beyond. 

If traffic growth exceeds what is predicted, construction could be moved up, based on funding availability. Additionally, WisDOT is committed to completing safety and/or spot improvements as needs arise.

Northeast Region

Fond du Lac County: US 151 is a major east-west arterial route through Fond du Lac County, as well as an essential commercial and agricultural transportation corridor serving the Midwest. The previous alignment went directly through downtown Fond du Lac, with through truck traffic encountering many turns and stoplights. By contrast, the now completed roadway bypasses the city to the south. The bypass consists of a newly constructed 8.1-mile highway from US 41 southwest of Fond du Lac to Taycheedah. 

US 151 is a Backbone route in the State Highway 2020 Plan. The US 151 segment between US 41 and WIS 23 is a connector route. Planning is already underway to ensure the new bypass remains safe and functional through a corridor preservation strategy. 

The preservation study will map the right-of-way needs for the location of future overpasses and interchanges. WisDOT’s long-term vision of this segment is an ultimate freeway with increased mobility and traveler safety.

The preservation study will identify the land parcels necessary for ultimate overpasses and interchanges, allowing them to be reserved for transportation use. Landowners can then work with local officials to guide future development in these areas. 

Winnebago and Brown Counties: US 41 is a 200-mile stretch of highway connecting two crucial economic regions in Wisconsin: southeastern Wisconsin and the Fox Valley. Reconstruction of this corridor will include multi-year projects in urban areas near Oshkosh and Green Bay.

Specifically, construction work on the US 41 project will span over 17 miles of highway in Winnebago County from 2009-2016, and 14 miles in Brown County from 2010-2016. The construction includes expansion of traffic lanes (from four to at least six lanes); improvement of 16 interchanges (with 13 of those interchanges completely rebuilt); 44 new roundabouts; installation of 17 new traffic cameras; and construction of an eight-lane Lake Butte des Morts Causeway. This project represents a significant step forward for Wisconsin and its economy by addressing current and future safety and capacity needs.

The areas connected by US 41 represent 56 percent of the state’s population, 57 percent of the state’s manufacturing facilities, and 52 percent of Wisconsin’s retail and wholesale businesses. Counties that Highway 41 runs through also account for $3.3 billion in tourism expenditures each year.

Four segments of the US 41 project received funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. This funding provided the opportunity to advance work on these segments, revitalize the area and create job opportunities in Northeast Wisconsin.

Outagamie County: 

The College Avenue Bridge, just to the east of downtown Appleton and Lawrence University, provides an important connection over the Fox River. This urban corridor links the east side of Appleton and communities including Kimberly and Combined Locks to US 41 and the Outagamie County Airport. Following a public-driven planning process, WisDOT scheduled the bridge for replacement in 2008. Following a 16-month closure, the bridge reopened in autumn 2009. The $16.1 million project decreased congestion by expanding the bridge from two to four lanes.

The new bridge features 11-foot driving lanes, 5-foot bicycle lanes, an interior barrier separating vehicular and pedestrian traffic, and 8-foot sidewalks. Aesthetic elements such as decorative railings and lights, insert patterns, and lookout areas were incorporated into the design and construction. 

North Central Region 

Marathon County: US 51 is the primary north-south corridor serving interstate travel through central Wisconsin. A portion of US 51 also carries intrastate traffic for WIS 29 and serves as a local commuter route for the Wausau metropolitan area. The combination of interstate and local traffic on this roadway creates heavy congestion that is expected to increase in the future.

WisDOT is reconstructing seven miles of US 51/WIS 29, between Foxglove Road and Bridge Street in Marathon County. The freeway will be expanded from the current four-lane divided highway to a six-lane divided highway between the WIS 29 east and WIS 29 west interchanges. Additional lanes will also be added between WIS 29 east and Marathon County N, and between Marathon County NN and WIS 29 west. Construction began in 2004 and is scheduled for completion in 2010.The project represents an estimated $291 million investment in central Wisconsin's transportation system. US 51 and WIS 29 are on the National Highway System and are key routes in Wisconsin's Corridors 2030 program.

Portage and Wood Counties: US 10 serves central Wisconsin as the primary east/west highway connecting the Fox Valley to the “Paper Valley” of central Wisconsin and to the Twin Cities. It is an important regional, state and national link for business, industry, recreation and agriculture. WisDOT is expanding 31 miles of US 10, between WIS 13 near Marshfield to I-39 north of Stevens Point. The new four-lane highway will bypass the communities of Auburndale, Blenker, Milladore and Junction City. The new US 10 will also bypass downtown Stevens Point, west of I-39.

The US 10 expansion project will provide a highway facility that will safely and efficiently handle increasing traffic volumes. US 10 is on the National Highway System and is an important route in Wisconsin's Corridors 2030 transportation plan.

The project represents an estimated $244 million investment in central Wisconsin's transportation system. Construction began in 2006 and is scheduled to be completed in 2012. 

Oneida County: Improvements to US 8 in Rhinelander included regrading and lane additions. This project was driven by the growth of industries in the area, several of which were recipients of Transportation Economic Assistance (TEA) grants. The improvements to US 8 will allow for these businesses to continue to grow and thrive, in turn retaining activity at the Oneida County Airport. 

Forest County: US 8 in the city of Crandon underwent complete reconstruction that involved a new storm sewer, sidewalks, curbs and gutters. The city was very involved during the design stages of the project and elected to replace all sanitary sewers, water lines and lighting along the project. WisDOT and the City of Crandon worked together on construction detour issues, business development during construction, and final project details. As an outcome of the work downtown, Crandon became a Main Street Community in 2000, leveraging local businesses to foster continued growth, cooperation and partnerships among Crandon’s downtown.

Northwest Region

Douglas County: The Ellis Avenue improvement project consisted of resurfacing the existing roadway from 16th Street to 6th Street and reconstructing the roadway from 6th Street to US 2 in the city of Ashland. The project completed in the fall of 2001. The reconstruction included installing a new storm sewer, open-graded base course, sidewalks, curb and gutter, street lighting and a PCC pavement. New traffic signals, decorative street lighting and colored crosswalks also added to the improvement project. Since the project completed, there were substantial economic development in the immediate area: investments to the Northland College campus and a local restaurant, establishments of a new Probation and Parole office, a new office complex for job services and a telephone company, and a new bank building.

St. Croix County: A recent WisDOT study examined the current and future transportation needs for the West Central Freeway system, the I-94 Corridor between Eau Claire and Hudson. Plans call for staged reconstruction of this corridor over the next several years. This roadway is one of the most heavily traveled corridors in Wisconsin, and runs through some of the most rapidly-growing part of the state. The corridor was also designated by the state as a “High Tech Industrial Corridor” in June, 2002, with tax credits offered to high-technology businesses moving to or expanding in a specified Technology Zone. 

One segment identified in the study is near the Village of Woodville. Two of the ten largest employers in St. Croix County, based on the number of employees, are located in Woodville. Current traffic volumes are near 40,000 vehicles per day just to the west of the study area. Closer to the state line (near Hudson), that volume grows to 70,000 vehicles per day – the highest Interstate Highway traffic volume in Wisconsin outside of Southeast Wisconsin. 

As growth in St. Croix County continues due to population increases and business development encouraged by the High Technology initiative, economic development is likely to expand within the project limits of the corridor within the next 20 years. Through corridor planning, conceptual capacity expansion studies, and staging, WisDOT is helping local governments prepare for construction activities. This allows collaborative land use decisions that provide community benefits while preserving the highway as an economic development generator. Moreover, by being proactive, WisDOT will save construction and real estate costs in the future. 

The proposed project will be helping to sustain the projected growth in St. Croix County. Quality transportation infrastructure will meet the growing demands created by economic prosperity, and provide the services necessary to sustain future growth. Further, the project will minimize future economic development impacts by preparing the corridor for additional capacity expansion.

For additional information, see WisDOT's Highway Improvement Program Web page

Aerial photo of US 151

US Highway 151 

Additional information about the Highway Improvement Program


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