The original study of the WIS 38 corridor was completed by the
Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) in February 2007 with
an environmental document approved by the Federal Highway
Administration (FHWA). Typically, when major project activities – such
as design, right of way acquisition, or construction – have not
commenced and when an environmental document is three or more years
old, the department is required to re-evaluate that document before
moving forward on the project.
The re-evaluation process determines whether the project purpose
and need, environmental constraints, alternatives, impacts and
proposed mitigation measures remain applicable, accurate and valid. It
also determines whether there have been any significant changes in
these factors or the associated regulations.
All alternatives from the original study, including the no-build
(“do nothing”) alternative, as well as any new alternatives, will be
re-evaluated and the impacts analyzed. The safety and traffic capacity
of the alternatives will be analyzed as well. Public and agency input
will be sought throughout the re-evaluation process.
The project is currently in the environmental documentation
re-evaluation stage. Corridor analysis associated with this
re-evaluation is expected to be completed by spring of 2013. If the
re-evaluation results in the same preferred alternative as the
original study, the re-evaluation is expected to be completed by
summer 2013. If the re-evaluation results in a different alternative
than the original study, a new environmental assessment will need to
be prepared, extending the environmental documentation process into
2014 or 2015.
After environmental documentation is completed, there are
several project phases to be completed before any construction could
occur. These phases include detailed roadway and bridge design, real
estate acquisition, utility relocation, and environmental agency
coordination and permitting. Therefore, the earliest that construction
would be anticipated is approximately 2020.
Other impacts (property severances, access points, historic
properties affected, archaeological sites affected, hazardous
materials sites, major utilities, safety, traffic operations)
Length of alternative (affects project cost, travel time along
There is no direct weighting system for impacts (e.g., property
acquisitions are not necessarily “worth more” or "worth less" than
wetlands). Alternatives will be developed to avoid or minimize impacts
wherever possible. Impacts associated with each alternative will be
quantified for comparison purposes as the re-evaluation progresses.
WIS 38 is classified as an arterial. Arterial facilities emphasize
traffic mobility rather than local access. They serve cities, large
communities, and other major traffic generators providing both local
and commuter traffic movements. In addition, WIS 38 is a National
Highway System (NHS) Route in Racine County; the NHS includes the
Interstate Highway System as well as other roads important to the
nation’s economy, defense, and mobility.
The classification of roadways is important because it determines
expectations for operations and design standards. Roadways with higher
classifications need to be designed to higher standards to allow for
better mobility. Also, because roadway deficiencies are correlated to
safety issues, deficiencies can have a bigger impact on a higher class
roadway. Exceptions to standards can sometimes be granted on
substandard features, but they are usually for spot locations and
where there are no safety issues associated with the substandard
The recent projects were interim solutions and fixed some spot
deficiencies. The major reconstruction project currently being
re-evaluated is intended to be a long-range improvement plan for a
safe and efficient highway. The WIS 38 roadway was originally
constructed in the 1920s and has not been fully reconstructed since;
this means the underlying pavement, as well as the design standards to
which the roadway was built, are approximately 90 years old.
The WIS 38 intersections at 7 Mile Rd and Oakwood Rd were
signalized in 2006, and a roundabout was built at the WIS 38/County K
intersection in 2007. The 7 Mile Rd and County K intersection projects
were in response to deficiencies at these particular locations, and
corresponding safety problems. The Oakwood Rd intersection was
improved to accommodate traffic from the new development at the
northwest quadrant of the intersection.
A project in 2010 resurfaced WIS 38 from north of the County K
roundabout to Oakwood Rd. This project overlaid the existing roadbed
to enhance ride quality and incorporated minor intersection
improvements where feasible without creating extensive impacts. The
project was a short-term improvement until deficiencies can be
corrected by the major WIS 38 project currently being re-evaluated.
These projects did minimal work to correct deficiencies throughout
the corridor such as poor horizontal curves (turning right or left),
poor vertical curves (hills and valleys), steep roadside slopes,
inadequate sight lines, and limited passing opportunities. These
deficiencies contribute to ongoing crash problems along the corridor
and also reduce traffic mobility. Traffic by the year 2040 is
anticipated to increase to levels which would result in difficult and
unsafe access to homes and businesses, and increased traffic delays.
The deficiencies and anticipated traffic growth are prevalent
throughout the corridor. Therefore, additional spot improvement
projects would not address the long-range purpose and need for the
The anticipated pavement life of a mill & overlay project, such as
the one done in 2010, is typically about 12 years from the time of
construction. The 2010 resurfacing project was considered a short term
improvement to address the deteriorated pavement until a viable full
reconstruction alternative is determined.
The original pavement on WIS 38 was constructed in the 1920s, and
has had five pavement overlays. The 2010 project analyzed whether the
project should resurface or reconstruct WIS 38 at that time. It was
determined that the 2010 overlay would be cost effective, but that
future overlays would not be, and the roadway would need to be
reconstructed after the resurfacing reaches the end of its life.
The current traffic volume ranges from 7,000 to 12,500 vehicles per
day (vpd), except for the segment between 5 Mile Rd and 6 Mile Rd
which is 5,000 vpd. It should be noted that existing counts can be
skewed by construction, crashes, or special events on adjacent
Traffic forecasts are based on land use plans and traffic patterns
associated with particular land uses; the forecasts are not directly
tied with existing counts. The Southeastern Wisconsin Regional
Planning Commission (SEWRPC) prepared traffic forecasts in April 2012
for the no-build alternative. These forecasts indicated that, by the
year 2040, without any improvements on WIS 38, traffic would grow to
roughly 13,500 - 14,000 vehicles per day (vpd) from County K to 5 Mile
Rd, 9,500 vpd between 5 Mile Rd and 6 Mile Rd, and 11,000 - 15,000 vpd
along 6 Mile Rd and from 6 Mile Rd to Oakwood Rd.
The SEWRPC traffic forecasts are based on future land use and
economic estimates developed by the State of Wisconsin, including
population, employment, households, and personal income. This data is
used to determine the volume of traffic expected to travel within and
between various local and regional areas. WIS 38 serves as a regional
facility and regional growth, in addition to local growth, drives the
forecasted volumes. Traffic growth is therefore caused not only by new
development within a given area, but also by development in the
It should also be noted WisDOT roadways are designed to
accommodate traffic 20 years beyond the construction date. The design
year for WIS 38 is 2040, which is 28 years from now. Even relatively
modest increases of less than 2% per year can result in substantial
increases over 28 years.
The general planning-level theoretical capacity of a 2-lane rural
arterial highway is about 15,000 vehicles per day. WIS 38 is
anticipated to be at or near this threshold by the year 2040. As
traffic approaches this threshold, traffic delays substantially
increase and access to/from side roads and driveways becomes
It is important to note that the 15,000 planning-level capacity is
for roadways which meet current safety and design standards, and have
limited access points such as side roads and driveways. WIS 38 has
many deficiencies and access points, reducing the capacity of the
roadway. Also, intersection operations often control the operation of
the roadway in general. Therefore, a more detailed level of service
analysis will be conducted during the re-evaluation to confirm
capacity of the existing roadway.
System linkage and continuity are also important in assessing the
need for four lanes. It is important to have consistent
characteristics throughout the route. Short stretches of 2-lane
highway amongst a generally 4-lane highway are undesirable from
traffic mobility and driver expectation standpoints.
The Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC)
recently conducted a feasibility study of a potential six-mile
extension of the Lake Parkway (WIS 794) from its current end point at
Edgerton Avenue to WIS 100 (Ryan Road) in Milwaukee County. The study
was prepared at the request of Milwaukee County and the cities of
Cudahy, Oak Creek, St. Francis, and South Milwaukee.
If a Lake Parkway Extension were to be built, it could potentially
lower the year 2040 forecasted traffic volumes on WIS 38 by
approximately 2,000 vpd north of 6 Mile Road adn 500 vpd south of 6
In general, WisDOT prefers to provide motorists
and other users parallel routes for travel instead of assigning two
state routes along the same roadway.
Traffic modeling was performed to see how much traffic would follow
the new route if WIS 38 were to be routed onto WIS 31. The modeling
indicated the additional traffic on WIS 31 would warrant improving WIS
31, resulting in significant impacts along WIS 31 and the east-west
roadways. In addition, the deficiencies would still remain on the
curent WIS 38 roadway. Therefore, alternatives for routing WIS 38 onto
WIS 31 were eliminated from further consideration.
If WIS 38 were to be routed along a new route, the "old WIS 38"
portion of the existing roadway would be jurisdictionally transferred
to the county or local municipality, who would then be responsible for
the road’s maintenance.
It may be possible to phase the construction of the project, but
the right-of-way for the ultimate corridor would be recommended as a
result of this re-evaluation. This recommendation will assist local
officials in making land use/development decisions within the corridor
and will identify the corridor to be preserved for the future route,
even if it isn’t all built at the same time. Options to phase the
project will be considered during the re-evaluation.
The following are the routes in the SEWRPC 2035 Regional
Transportation Plan which are recommended to be considered for
improvements, in addition to the current WIS 38 project:
I-94 to WIS 38
Racine County has no plans to expand route
5 Mile Road
County H to WIS 32
Village of Caledonia has no plans to expand route
County G (6 Mile Road)
County H to WIS 32
Racine County has no plans to expand route
4 Mile Road to 6 Mile Road
Reconstructed with concrete pavment in 2006 by WisDOT; no
additional improvements planned at this time
5 Mile Road to WIS 31/6 Mile Road
Improvements are being investigated, but
the extent and timing of a project are not known at this time.
For more information, see
the WIS 32 website
WIS 31/6 Mile Road to WIS 100/Ryan
Not currently scheduled for any improvements
4 Mile Road from County H to WIS 32 is not shown in the SEWRPC plan
as a route to be considered for improvements, nor does the Village of
Caledonia have any plans at this time to expand the route.
Note that the information above refers to significant roadway
reconstruction or expansion improvements. There may be periodic
maintenance or resurfacing-type projects implemented on these and
other routes in the region, as needed.
Speed limits are used to convey the permitted travel speed for a
roadway under ideal conditions. Common sense says that regulating
speed could make roadways safer.
However, driving behavior is not easy to manage, and achieving
compliance with the speed limits is important for traffic safety and
Studies show that lowering speed limits has little effect on actual
speeds, usually only reducing speeds by one to two miles per hour. If
a speed limit is arbitrarily set, and if there is a lack of strong
enforcement, motorists will travel at the speed with which they are
comfortable. Some drivers may be comfortable at higher speeds than
others, and this difference in speeds leads to increased crashes. For
these reasons, it is important to set reasonable speed limits.
State statutes do not allow WisDOT to arbitrarily set speed limits
on state highways. Speed limits are statutorily defined, but there is
some flexibility to alter speed limits if supported by a speed study.
In order to maximize safe and efficient travel, speed limits should be
set within 5 mph of the 85th percentile speed, and no more than 2 mph
less than the average operating speed. From 2003-2004, speed studies
were conducted at 12 different times/locations along WIS 38 in Racine
85th Percentile Speed
55 mph - 61 mph (58 mph
50.6 – 56.4 mph (53.5 mph
These speed studies, and similar studies conducted along WIS 38
in the 1990s, reveal that traffic is in normal compliance to the
speed limit, and indicate that the speed limit should remain at 55
All interested parties are encouraged to join the WIS 38 mailing
list; doing so will ensure you are updated as future Public
Information Meetings are planned. The project team will also attend
smaller meetings (e.g. subdivision Homeowner’s Association Meetings)
on request to better address a particular group’s concerns.
Please check the project website for updated FAQs and other
information as the re-evaluation progresses and/or contact the project