The study includes completion of an Environmental Impact Statement
(EIS) and will identify safety improvements as well as how travel
needs along the corridor can be met. The EIS will evaluate potential
alternatives, assess their potential impacts, incorporate public and
agency comments, and document the preferred alternative.
An approved EIS is necessary to evaluate and identify the major
improvements that will be necessary for US 51 to provide a safe and
efficient multi-modal facility for the traveling public. In 2004,
WisDOT completed a Needs Assessment that showed there are existing
geometric deficiencies in the US 51 corridor (such as poor visibility
at curves and intersections, obstacles that are too close to the
roadway, and lack of turning lanes).
Problems with safety and congestion have been voiced by citizens
throughout the study. A frequent concern heard is: left turns onto and
off of the highway are difficult and dangerous. There is also limited
ability to pass slower-moving vehicles. Crash rates along the corridor
and injury crash rates are above the statewide average for similar
types of roadways. Projected traffic volumes for the existing 2-lane
US 51 corridor between Stoughton and McFarland are approaching or
above the threshold where a 4-lane facility would be considered
(15,000 vehicles per day). Projected traffic volumes will produce
unacceptable congestion at peak travel times at many locations. The
lack of bike and pedestrian facilities is also noted. These problems
will worsen as additional jobs and residences develop in the area.
• No Build No improvements would be provided other than routine
maintenance and the resurfacing projects already programmed. The No
Build Alternative serves as a baseline for comparison to the Build
Alternatives A and B.
• Alternative A Alternative A is the
Low Build alternative, it does not add capacity (no new through travel
lanes). Efforts are focused on improving safety at intersections along
US 51. East of Stoughton, the 2-lane US 51 would be reconstructed and
include an eastbound passing lane.
• Alternative B
Alternative B is the expansion alternative and has several component
improvements: o 4-lane expansion on US 51 from Stoughton (County B
East) to McFarland including a roundabout at County B East, an
interchange at County B/AB, and a roundabout at Exchange St. in
McFarland. o Reconstruct the existing 4-lane roadway in McFarland
and the 2-lane roadway east of Stoughton. o Improve safety at
various intersections in Stoughton. o Provide the Stoughton Bypass,
a 4-lane roadway around Stoughton: on US 51 from WIS 138 to County B
East; on County B from US 51 to County N; and on one of three options
east of County N to connect back to US 51 east of Stoughton. Those
three options are: 1. Spring Road East Alignment 2. Overland
Alignment 3. Skaalen and Pleasant Hill Roads
5. When will one of these alternatives be
The schedule calls for completing the draft EIS (DEIS) in the
winter of 2012 and the selection of a preferred alternative in the
spring of 2013.
6. When will the public have opportunities to
The October 2012 public information meeting will be an opportunity
to comment and provide input on the latest revisions to the
alternatives and the associated impacts. The alternatives will then be
finalized and included in the Draft EIS which will be published and
available for public comment.
A Public Hearing will be conducted after the DEIS is published
which will allow the public to formally comment on the document. In
addition, comments may be submitted to the Project Manager at any time
throughout the life of the study.
Environmental impacts will be an important part of the comparison
of alternatives. Evaluation of the potential impacts to wetland,
farmland, archaeological and historic resources, and other resources
is ongoing and will be detailed in the Draft EIS. Environmental
impacts will affect the selection of a preferred alternative.
8. Who has to approve the preferred
alternative that is selected for the Final EIS?
WisDOT and the Federal Highway Administration approve the preferred
alternative and seek the concurrence of the federal resource agencies,
such as the US Environmental Protection Agency. These approvals are
sufficient for approval of the final EIS. Before a project is built in
the Madison area using federal funds, the Transportation Planning
Board must approve the project.
The environmental study process will be completed when the FEIS is
signed and a Record of Decision (ROD) is issued by FHWA. However,
final design and construction cannot occur until funding of the
preferred alternative is requested of and enumerated by the
Transportation Projects Commission (TPC). The TPC consists of the
Governor, three citizen members appointed by the Governor, five
senators, five representatives, and the WisDOT Secretary (non-voting
The TPC recommends projects that most warrant funding to the
Legislature and the Governor. Only then would WisDOT proceed with
final plans, real estate acquisition, and construction. Short-term
spot improvements identified throughout the process may be implemented
as safety and operational needs arise.
10. Why is WisDOT doing this planning work
when funds have not been allocated?
The goal is to have a plan so that as lands develop or redevelop in
the corridor, the possible changes to the roadway can be taken into
consideration. Without a long-term plan, the best solution may become
too expensive to accomplish if it would require removing new buildings
11. What is the role of transit in handling
travel needs in this corridor?
The study includes extensive computer modeling to determine how the
existing roadway and proposed alternatives will handle the demand for
travel in the corridor in the future. The future conditions regional
traffic model assumes the “Locally Preferred Alternative” selected by
the Transport 2020 study is constructed and operational. This
alternative assumes a commuter rail system in the Madison area, with
express bus service to outlying communities such as Stoughton. Even
with a high level of transit service in the region, the problems
identified in the Needs Assessment for this corridor will remain.
12. How will the alternatives handle the needs of
bicyclists and pedestrians?
Alternative A will improve bicycle and pedestrian facilities at
improved intersections and provide a paved shoulder on US 51 east of
Stoughton. Alternative B will provide bicycle facilities along and
across the corridor, and pedestrian facilities in urban reconstruction
areas. Connections to existing and proposed bicycle and pedestrian
facilities will be evaluated in coordination with Dane County Parks,
the City of Stoughton, the Village of McFarland, and other interested
13. Will the project continue if traffic
volumes decrease in the future? Has the economic downturn been
There are existing geometric deficiencies and problems with safety,
congestion, and bike and pedestrian connectivity in the US 51
corridor. These problems will worsen if traffic volumes increase. For
this study, a conservative annual population growth rate of 1.2% was
used for traffic projections and to simulate future facility
operations. This rate should be appropriate to capture the traffic
volumes currently being experienced during this economic slow down.
Funds have not been committed for a project and improvements could be
delayed, depending on need, or may be staged to address safety
concerns and traffic congestion, as warranted.
A major consideration when setting speed limits is the prevailing
or majority speed of drivers. The nationally accepted principle is
that the majority of drivers are cautious, prudent and drive at speeds
that are reasonable and proper for that roadway, regardless of the
speed limit. If speeds are arbitrarily lowered, the majority of
drivers will continue to drive the speed that is reasonable to them.
Studies have shown that vehicle speeds reduce by one fourth of the
speed reduction. So for example, reducing the speed limit from 55 mph
to 50 mph will reduce the average vehicle speed by only 1 mph.
Further, posting speeds lower or higher than the majority speed of
drivers has often resulted in an increase in traffic crashes due to
tailgating, improper passing, reckless driving and excessive weaving.
Speed limits are set within 5 mph of the observed 85th percentile or
within 2 mph of the observed average speed.