Wisconsin Department of Transportation

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US 14/61 Improvements - Frequently asked questions (FAQ), Study process

FAQ - Study process | FAQ - Official mapping process

Who is conducting the study?

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) Southwest Region is initiating the study.

Local officials from Vernon County, the cities of Viroqua and Westby, the towns of Christiana, Coon, Franklin, Jefferson and Viroqua, along with property owners and other interested stakeholders are also contributing to the study.

What are the limits of the study?

The study is located in Vernon County.

Viroqua bypass study limits - Springville Road to existing US 14/61, a distance of approximately 5.1 miles

Westby bypass study limits - Sherpe Road to Cut-A-Cross Road, a distance of approximately 3.6 miles.

What is this study all about?

The study is being conducted to evaluate options to preserve and officially map right of way for a four-lane bypass of Viroqua and Westby as well as develop a long-term vision for the corridor with the goal of officially designating, mapping, and preserving it as an expressway.

As an expressway, the number of at-grade intersections and direct access to US 14/61 would be limited to safely balance the access and mobility needs of the area.

The development of the study is occurring now to ensure long-term improvement options are not precluded as land uses and other conditions change along the corridor over time.

As part of the study, separate Environmental Assessments (EA) of the proposed four-lane expressway bypasses are being conducted in accordance with federal and state requirements.

Hasn’t this already been studied?

In 2002, WisDOT completed an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the US 14/61 corridor near the cities of Viroqua and Westby. The Preferred Alternative included an eastern two-lane bypass of Viroqua, expansion of US 14/61 to four lanes between the two cities, and a western two-lane bypass of Westby.

Since the completion of the EIS in 2002, a number of issues have emerged. This has led WisDOT to conclude that certain elements of the bypass study needs to be updated, including the need to preserve and officially map right of way required for a four-lane facility as well as possible expressway improvements at the intersections.

Second, in WisDOT’s most recent long-range highway plan, Connections 2030, the US 14/61 corridor is designated as a “Connector” highway, including the new bypass alignments. The “Connector” system is a network of high quality routes that directly link significant economic and tourism centers.

Third, not only is US 14/61 part of the “Connector” system, it is also a critical parallel reliever route to the Interstate. Because of these recent issues/findings, WisDOT has initiated an update of the previous study to preserve and officially map right of way for a four-lane bypass corridor as well as consider expressway improvements.

The preservation study will also revise the traffic forecasts with current data to better refine the construction timeline, as well as the type and function of four-lane bypasses that would best serve the transportation needs of the future.

It is important to note that the update of the bypasses would not change the physical alignment or location of the bypasses as defined by the original EIS.

When will a bypass be built?

After the study and environmental review process is complete, traffic and safety assessments will be conducted periodically to help determine when the final step, construction of the bypasses, is needed.

It is possible that two-lane bypasses would be constructed first, within the preserved right of way of the four-lane bypasses.

Before construction of the bypasses, WisDOT and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) will re-evaluate the EIS and conduct additional environmental review as required to account for any existing conditions that change between now and then.

The exact timing of construction is difficult to predict. It will depend on future traffic and safety along the existing US 14/61 route, state funding priorities, and where this project is prioritized among the state's other highway projects.

Given the state's existing identified improvement needs, anticipated priorities, and findings of this study, construction of four-lane bypasses would be unlikely until sometime after 2030.

Construction could be a long time from now and conditions will change. Won't the environmental impacts need to be reassessed?

Because of the anticipated time lag between the EA and construction, the environmental document will need to be reevaluated in coordination with federal, state, and local agencies.

What is the difference between an expressway and a freeway?

Expressway improvements are being planned and will be part of the preservation study for the Viroqua and Westby bypasses. The four-lane section of the corridor between Viroqua and Westby has already been built to expressway standards.

Expressways are multi-lane roadways with a median to separate traffic. The posted speed limit is usually 55 to 65 mph, although it may be posted lower in/near urban areas.

Expressways have some at-grade intersections with public roads and driveways, allowing vehicles to get directly on/off/across the main highway. They may also include interchanges and grade separations (side roads that go under or over the main road but do not access it directly).

Freeways also have two or more lanes in each direction separated by a median and a 55 to 65 mph posted speed limit.

Unlike expressways, freeways have no at-grade access of any kind. All crossroads are separated by grade (they go over or under the freeway). They provide access on/off the highway only at interchanges, better known as controlled access.

How would preserving and officially mapping right of way affect my property and any improvements that I have planned?

Unlike property acquisition, official mapping does not change the immediate ownership of the land and/or involve purchase of property. In most cases, property owners would be allowed to use their property just as they are today. Property owners can then be confident that expensive new investments to homes and businesses will not be negatively impacted by the bypasses.

Ultimately, official mapping greatly increases the likelihood that the land needed for the future improvement would remain available at a reasonable cost, saving taxpayer money, and avoid moving the proposed roadway to a less desirable location.

How is this study related to the recent four-lane US 14/61 expansion project between Viroqua and Westby?

WisDOT recently completed an expansion of US 14/61 from two to four lanes between Viroqua and Westby. This improvement was needed to address immediate safety, capacity, and operational needs along the existing facility.

The Viroqua and Westby bypasses were not included in this recent project because the current traffic forecasts, land use, development, and community plans have not demonstrated an immediate need for their construction.

How will truck traffic from WIS 27 through Westby by addressed?

The construction of a US 14/61 bypass would relieve traffic congestion in downtown Westby. Truck traffic from US 14/61 would be diverted from downtown to the new bypass, which would reduce noise from trucks and increase safety for those in the downtown area.

While there would not be a WIS 27 bypass of Westby, the overall truck traffic in downtown Westby would be reduced as a result of the proposed US 14/61 bypass.

Will a multi-use path also be preserved along the bypass corridors?

A multi-use path along the bypass corridors themselves would not be included in the bypass reevaluation process. The recently agreed upon multi-use path between the communities would be constructed as planned and would serve multi-modal commuter trips between the two cities.

Because the vast majority of multi-modal trips begin and end within Viroqua and Westby, there is no identified transportation need for multi-use paths adjacent to the bypasses.

How can I get involved and stay informed?

Meetings for both the general public and local officials would be held over the next year or so.

Mailing list

A project mailing database has been developed. The mailing list is comprised of study area residences/businesses, local officials, emergency service providers, agricultural operators, school transportation officials, and other interested parties. Receiving this mailing indicates that you are included in the database.

If you know of others who did not receive a mailing and/or who may wish to be included, contact:

Paul Wydeven, WisDOT Project Manager
(608) 246-7910

For more information about this study, contact:

Paul Wydeven, WisDOT Project Manager
WisDOT Southwest Region
2101 Wright Street
Madison, WI 53704
(608) 246-7910

Back Back to Segment 2 (Westby Bypass)

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Back Back to Segment 1 (Westby to Viroqua, four-lane divided highway) - project completed

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SSI Contact Questions about the content of this page, contact:
WisDOT Southwest Region Office-Madison, swr.dtsd@dot.wi.gov
Last modified: June 24, 2013

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