Connector newsletter - December 2017

Connector newsletter

Highway numbering system is a Wisconsin original  

Rob Miller - Dec. 19

Wisconsin has long been considered a national leader in transportation. In 1917 the state Legislature called upon the State Highway Commission (predecessor of the Wisconsin DOT) to “establish a State Trunk Highway System not to exceed 5,000 miles” and “erect standard guide and warning signs.” Wisconsin then became the first state to adopt a highway numbering system, which was later adopted nationwide. Actual marking of the system took place a year later, and working with county authorities, was reportedly completed in just one week. Initially, many of the highway numbers appeared on posts and power poles. Today, WisDOT oversees some 300,000 directional, warning and guidance signs along a State Highway System that covers about 11,800 miles.

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2017 road work progress helps move Wisconsin forward
Region-by-region report details status of projects statewide

Wisconsin DOT - Dec. 19

A check in the rearview mirror at what Wisconsin DOT accomplished in 2017 reveals pleasant sights to behold.

During the year, about 600 miles of state trunk highway and local highways were improved, and work was initiated or completed to rehabilitate or replace 387 deficient state and local bridges. In all, more than $946 million in construction projects on state and local road systems were contracted through Wisconsin DOT.

“Under Governor Walker’s leadership, WisDOT is operating under a new paradigm," said Wisconsin DOT Secretary Dave Ross. "Governor Walker directed WisDOT to reinvest let savings to advance a number of highway projects, identify cost savings and efficiencies, and effectively use its resources while maintaining a focus on safety. We remain committed to continuing to move Wisconsin forward in 2018.”

Let savings is money saved as a result of project efficiencies that are then reinvested into future projects. Travel to any corner of the state and chances are the journey will traverse one of these projects, be it a newly constructed or refurbished bridge or stretch of highway. Here’s a region-by-region review of the 2017 road work projects.

Northeast Region

WIS 441 Tri-County Expansion
Winnebago, Outagamie, Calumet counties

The WIS 441 Tri-County Expansion Project is on schedule with the goal of better serving the growing communities in and around the Fox Cities and northeastern Wisconsin. The project, slated for a 2019 completion, will reconstruct and expand approximately 6 miles of US 10 / WIS 441 from four to six lanes between Cold Spring Road (County CB) and Oneida Street (US 10) in Winnebago, Outagamie and Calumet counties, and reconstruct five interchanges and the Roland Kampo Bridge. learn more

WIS 32 (Ashland Avenue)
Brown County

The WIS 32 project was completed and opened to traffic in early August. Work included two bridge replacements and resurfacing of more than 3 miles of pavement from the 8th Street roundabout in De Pere to the village of Ashwaubenon limits at Lombardi Avenue. Resurfacing work went deeper in some spots to fix rutting at the various intersections, and wing wall replacements on the east end of the Dutchman Creek box culvert. learn more

Outagamie County

A more than 10-mile section of highway from County Road J in Outagamie County to Orange Lane in Brown County underwent several structural and safety related improvements. Work included resurfacing existing pavement, polymer high-friction surface treatment application on bridge decks, Apple Creek bridge deck repair, expansion of capacity at the County S Park and Ride, reconstruction of the Wrightstown Weigh Station ramps, and the addition of an auxiliary lane from the weigh station to County U northbound I-41 off-ramp. The 9-month project was done mostly at night to accommodate the interstate’s high traffic volume. learn more

WIS 29/156
Brown, Shawano counties

This project launched in July this year and is slated for a September 2018 completion. Improvements will address safety and pavement needs, and includes rerouting WIS 156 along Old 29 Drive, County Y and the WIS 29/32 interchange. Specifics include removing the existing WIS 29/156 intersection, constructing a new alignment and overpass of St. Augustine Road over WIS 29, reconstruction of three culverts, resurfacing WIS 156 and Old 29 Drive, and reconstruction of County Y and the Old 29 Drive intersection with the addition of turn lanes. learn more

WIS 32
Brown, Calumet counties

This completed road resurface project included improvements to a nearly 7-mile stretch of WIS 32 from Hilbert to the Brown/Calumet County line. Rumble strips were also installed as well as reconstruction of two railroad crossings north of Hilbert, due to failing crossing surfaces.

WIS 55 Little Lake Henry Box Culvert – rebar work under downtown Seymour.

WIS 55
Outagamie County

A nearly 3-mile stretch of WIS 55 from US 10 to Ridgecrest in Kaukauna included resurfacing, and gravel shoulder, rumble strip, signage and pavement marking installations. Curb and gutter were also repaired at the WIS 55 and County KK roundabout.

WIS 57
Door County

Eight miles of WIS 57 from County Q in Baileys Harbor to WIS 42 in Sister Bay is receiving a much-needed makeover to include several culvert replacements as well as replacement of a box culvert with a single-span bridge at Mudd Creek.  Crews will resume work in spring 2018 with paving operations, shoulder installations, wrapping up with pavement markings before the reopening scheduled for June 2018. Construction will not impact Door County's busy tourist season. learn more

WIS 44
Fond du Lac, Winnebago counties

A nearly 5-mile section of WIS 44 was improved from Ripon’s Douglas Street to the Fond du Lac/Winnebago County line. Road resurfacing with some deeper repairs to the subsurface, intersection improvements, and culvert replacements were all part of the 2017 improvements. Crews also added passing lanes to northbound WIS 44 from Seelig Way to Page Road, and southbound WIS 44 from Fletcher Road to just past Springbrook Road.

WIS 67 Long Lake Box Culvert replacement and fish habitat restoration.

WIS 67
Fond du Lac County

Wisconsin DOT partnered with Wisconsin DNR and other government and private sector organizations to construct a box culvert that would reopen stream flow for spawning fish from nearby Long Lake. The previous culverts became perched above the water line over the years, preventing the passage of fish from Long Lake to historic spawning grounds upstream of the culvert. Monitoring equipment will soon be installed to keep count of fish passing through the culvert, but according to Project Manager Bryan Learst, fish have already been spotted swimming upstream of the culvert. Funding for the project was provided by a Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) grant from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. learn more

Manitowoc County

A nearly 7-mile stretch of I-43 from Clover Road in Clover to Point Creek Road in Cleveland in southern Manitowoc County received pavement resurfacing, concrete overlays on bridge structures, ramp patching and resurfacing at the I-43/County C interchange, bridge replacement of northbound I-43 bridge at Point Creek Road, and bridge replacement of southbound I-43 bridge over County U/Newton Road. learn more

Sheboygan, Manitowoc counties

Seven miles of highway from Sheboygan/Manitowoc County line to WIS 42/I-43 interchange underwent resurfacing, concrete base patching, culvert replacement, sign installation and replacement, and pavement marking. learn more 

Northwest Region

WIS 13
Bayfield County

A 10-mile stretch of WIS 13 received pavement replacement as well as new signs and beam guardrails throughout the stretch.

WIS 98 in downtown Loyal.

WIS 98
Clark County

Downtown Loyal received some much-needed road and utility improvements earlier this year along its stretch of WIS 98. Improvements included new water, sanitary sewer, storm sewer all topped off with concrete pavement and decorative street lighting.

WIS 27
Eau Claire County

The bridge removal and replacement over Bridge Creek in Augusta was delivered three weeks ahead of schedule.

WIS 35
Pepin County

This gorgeous 12-mile segment of WIS 35 running along the mighty Mississippi River between Nelson and Stockholm received a makeover in 2017 with beam guardrail replacement, replacement and enhancement of existing permanent signs, pavement replacement and new pavement markings. Pedestrian ramps were updated and traffic islands installed in the villages of Pepin and Stockholm.

WIS 65/Kennedy Mills
Polk County

The WIS 65/Kennedy Mill intersection was modified to reduce speeds, allow for better sight distance and enhance safety. Reconstruction of the segment around Mansen Lake included realignment and widening of the roadway to increase safety. Both sections on WIS 65 have had higher than average crash rates.

St. Croix River Crossing
St. Croix County

The new St. Croix Crossing bridge spanning the St. Croix River from St. Joseph, Wis. to Oak Park Heights, Minn. is testament to how engineering knowhow can help bridge differing interests while melding flow and function into a stunning landscape. The bridge opened to traffic Aug. 2, but project work will continue into summer 2019 with construction remaining on the final phase - a bike/pedestrian loop trail that will run from the historic Stillwater Lift Bridge up WIS 64, through portions of Houlton and continue to the new bridge. learn more

US 53
Washburn County

This road resurfacing of an 11-mile section from Spooner to Minong included culvert pipe repairs and new signage.

North Central Region

Old US 10/Wood County P
Wood County

Following the removal of US 10 from the village of Auburndale downtown, an improvement project was needed to create a local road system that would retain connectivity to the new US 10 and improve rail crossing safety. Work included replacing deteriorated pavement, closing four at-grade rail crossings to improve safety, constructing a pedestrian underpass and drainage improvements.

Portage, Waushara counties

Work involved asphalt milling and overlay of northbound I-39. Five bridges received concrete deck overlays, including the northbound and southbound bridges at the WIS 73 interchange.  

US 45
Shawano County

This important rural highway section connecting the Fox Valley to the Northwoods received a pavement replacement between Gollnow and Menzel roads to ensure the continued viability of the corridor.

WIS 77
Iron County

Crews improved this important Northwoods thoroughfare between Odanah and Upson roads in Hurley by resurfacing the highway, and replacing four culverts.

Southwest Region

High Point Road Bridge/Madison Beltline (US 12/14)
Dane County

The High Point Road bridge carries local traffic over the Madison Beltline (US 12/14) and is a key link connecting residential and business areas on the city’s west side. The 49-year-old structure was removed, replaced and the new bridge opened to traffic as scheduled on Sept. 1. The bridge now accommodates four lanes of traffic and added bicycle and pedestrian accommodations.

Interstate 39/90
Madison to Beloit

The I-39/90 Expansion Project extends approximately 45 miles along Interstate 39/90 from the Illinois state line to the US 12/18 interchange near Madison. The project’s purpose is to reconstruct and expand the Interstate to three lanes in each direction (four each way through Janesville) and reconfigure 11 interchanges to bring the corridor up to modern standards in safety, service and functionality.

Temporary widening on nearly 15 miles of southbound lanes near Madison and Beloit will be used for future traffic staging to handle two lanes of traffic in each direction during upcoming Interstate expansion. Three overpass bridges (County AB, Manogue Road and Stateline Road) were replaced over I-39/90 near Madison, Janesville and Beloit, respectively. Bridges were lengthened to accommodate future Interstate expansion and to meet design standards.

County N interchange reconstruction, north of Stoughton involved construction of three roundabouts to improve safety and mobility for all roadway users. Interstate expansion adjacent to the County N interchange area is slated for completion in fall 2018.

I-39/90 construction at the Rock River bridges near Edgerton and Newville continues this two-and-a-half-year project. Interstate traffic is now shifted onto the northbound bridge as crews rebuild the southbound structure over the river. Some construction work will occur over the winter months.

Reconstruction and expansion of I-39/90 northbound from the Dane/Rock county line to East Church Road, included the northbound side of the US 51 interchange (Exit 156). Northbound traffic recently shifted onto the permanent concrete pavement. Construction began on the two-and-a-half-year project to reconstruct and expand I-39/90 northbound and southbound, between Hart Road near Beloit and the US 14 interchange in Janesville. Some construction work will occur over the winter months. learn more

US 18
Crawford County

This multi-year project between Prairie du Chien and the Wisconsin River Bridge upgraded the corridor to a four-lane highway, constructed right- and left-turn lanes at intersections to improve traffic flow and safety, realigned side roads for better access and reconstructed the US 18/WIS 60 intersection.

US 18/151-Verona Road.

US 18/151 (Verona Road)
Dane County

Crews completed the first of three construction phases in August 2017 during Stage 2. Stage 2 construction includes the reconstruction and expansion of Verona Road, between Raymond Road and County PD/McKee Road, including interchanges at County PD and Williamsburg Way. The second of three construction phases began in September to continue to expand Verona Road with interchange ramps being constructed at Williamsburg Way and County PD.

US 61

Crawford, Grant counties

This main north-south corridor and freight route in southwestern Wisconsin received more than 20 miles of resurface work along stretches running through Crawford and Grant counties. Safety improvements, including passing lanes and widened shoulders, were included in the projects, which were started and completed in the 2017 road work season. 

US 151
Dane County

Pavement was repaired and replaced along the busy stretch of US 151 in Sun Prairie, and included bridge and interchange improvements. All work was completed while maintaining traffic flow.

WIS 59
Green County

Nearly 18 miles of highway was resurfaced and marked between Albany and Monroe along with replacement of beam guardrails, signing and culverts.

WIS 78
Dane County

Crews repaved nearly 10 miles of highway between Mt. Horeb and Cross Plains in western Dane County in addition to widening paved shoulders and updating safety features to current standards.

Southeast Region

Hoan Bridge
Milwaukee County

The final season of repainting the bridge steel along one of Milwaukee’s most recognizable landmarks is complete. The Hoan Bridge handles about 40,000 vehicles per day and required 3 million square feet of painting.

Zoo Interchange

Zoo Interchange
Milwaukee County

Major milestones were reached during the ongoing Zoo Interchange reconstruction. During 2017, two new system ramps were completed and reopened to the public. The new westbound I-94 lanes from the core of the interchange out to the project limits were also opened to traffic with the connections to and from WIS 100 fully open as well. Work completed during the year allows completion for the core of the Interchange to be set for late August of 2018. learn more

I-794 Lakefront Gateway
Milwaukee County

Multiple interchange ramp realignments linking Milwaukee’s downtown, lakefront and Third Ward District came together in the construction of this award-winning project. A two-and-a-half acre site opened by the ramp realignments made room for the planned construction of a high-rise building and adjacent pedestrian access to downtown and the lakefront.

Marquette Interchange
Milwaukee County

A new polymer overlay was applied throughout the interchange located in downtown Milwaukee. This high tensile strength application was used to seal, protect and extend the life of the bridge decks. Minor closeout items to take place in 2018. learn more

Waukesha County

Pavement repairs along a section from the Waukesha County Line to WIS 16. Most work was done at night to optimize safety while minimizing traffic flow impact.

WIS 50
Walworth County

This stretch through downtown Delavan received spot reconstruction improvements and was resurfaced to help address congestion and delays.

WIS 145
Washington County

Improvements along this stretch from Mequon Road to County P in the village of Germantown included updating a guardrail at the Menomonee River bridge and replacing the Pilgrim Road railroad crossing, among other spot safety improvements. 

US 45
Kenosha County

Resurface work extended from the Illinois State Line to 86th Street, with reconstruction work running from 86th Street to WIS 50 near the town of Bristol. Various intersections were realigned and improved throughout the corridor, including the addition of Emergency Vehicle Preemption (EVP) detection.

US 14 in village of Walworth

US 14
Walworth County

A resurfacing project that had an original duration of three months was completed in one to mitigate traffic impacts in the downtown district of the village of Walworth. Crews worked with local businesses along the town square to coordinate a full closure of the roadway to expedite construction operations. 

WIS 165
Kenosha County

This two-year project rehabilitated approximately three miles of WIS 165, from I-94 to WIS 31. It also consisted of building a new bridge over the Des Plaines River, while rehabilitating the existing bridge. This work created twin bridges to accommodate lane expansions.

WIS 120
Walworth County

Resurfacing work extended from the Illinois State Line to Willow Road in addition to rehabilitation of the bridge spanning Nippersink Creek. Spot safety improvements included updates to existing beam guardrails and installing concrete barriers under the Wisconsin and Southern Railroad bridge.

WIS 36 and County Y
Racine County

Overall safety of the intersection was improved through adjusting alignment of the left-turn bays to alleviate sight distance issues and installing more visible traffic signals.

WIS 16
Waukesha County

This rehabilitation from County P to I-94, replaced beam guardrails, added new signage and incorporated new pavement markings. Cable barrier installation along the median throughout the corridor is part of a separate 2018 project. learn more

Park and rides
Throughout Southeast

This project rehabilitated 10 park and rides around southeastern Wisconsin and required constant communication with transit services and users, summer events and festivals.

I-41 and Capitol Drive
Milwaukee County

Work was completed over the summer to resurface connecting ramps in this interchange in addition to the installation of new traffic control devices. The timely completion of the work is allowing the route to be used as a detour route for work on I-41.

Watertown Plank Road Bridges
Milwaukee County

Rehabilitation of two bridges along Watertown Plank Road that spanned Underwood Creek included removal and replacement of existing bridge decks with updates to existing girders. Work continues this winter with an anticipated opening in fall 2018. learn more

I-41 Nor-X-Way
Waukesha County

This project’s focal point is replacement of a small bridge on the I-41/US 45 southbound entrance ramp and the I-41/US 45 mainline near the village of Menomonee Falls. To safely implement this improvement while maximizing traffic flow for motorists, most of the project work was conducted at night. Crews will return next construction season to finish the project.

I-94 North/South County K Crossroads
Racine County

County K was reconstructed approximately three quarter mile either side east and west of the I-94 ramps. Improvements included adding traffic signals at all four legs of the County K and East Frontage Road, and replacing stops signs for the north and south movements. Work is scheduled to be complete in spring 2018. learn more

WIS 50 Bridge Flooding
Kenosha County

WisDOT staff and State Patrol worked with multiple government and law enforcement agencies on various efforts to ensure a coordinated response to the flooding emergency that hit southeastern Wisconsin in July. This included help with short- and long-term state highway closures, and detour routes. One of the most impacted highways was WIS 50 at the Fox River in New Munster. After historic water levels receded, crews inspected the bridge to ensure safety, rebuilt washed out shoulders and immediately began designing the new elevated bridge to be constructed in 2018.

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'It Can Wait' events reinforce life-saving message
Events held in 210 Wisconsin cities, reach more than 46,000 students since 2010

simulator West Salem High School senior Hunter Wakefield tries out the distracted driving simulator.

Terry Walsh — Dec. 19

West Salem High School senior Hunter Wakefield took the wheel of a distracted driving simulator to see what can happen if he tried texting while driving.

He and nearly 550 of his classmates took part in an It Can Wait event to remind students that smartphone activity can and should wait until after driving.

This was part of a series of high school events Wisconsin State Patrol, AT&T and AAA are holding this school year to drive home the dangers of distracted driving and encourage students to take the pledge to keep their eyes on the road and off their phones.

Teens also watched a powerful documentary produced by AT&T called “The Last Text,” which shares real stories about lives altered or ended by someone’s decision to text and drive.

“Taking your eyes off the road, even for a few moments, can have tragic consequences,” said Wisconsin State Patrol Superintendent J.D. Lind. “To ensure the safety of all travelers, we need drivers to stay focused on the road ahead, slow down and make sure everyone in their vehicle is buckled up.”

While Wisconsin's ban on texting and driving was enacted seven years ago, the number there are still drivers in violation. Research from AT&T shows that while 95 percent of drivers disapprove of distracted driving, but 71 percent still engage in smartphone activities while driving. Texting and emailing are the most prevalent, but four in 10 drivers also tap into social media. More than 25 percent are on Facebook, 1 in 7 are on Twitter, almost 3 in 10 surf the net, and surprisingly, 1 in 10 video chat.

But there are signs of hope and progress being made as research shows that 57 percent of people are more likely to stop driving distracted if a friend or passenger pressures them to.

57 percent of people are more likely to stop driving distracted if a friend or passenger pressures them to.

The It Can Wait campaign has turned into a national social movement with support from organizations throughout the country, including the Wisconsin State Patrol and AAA. Since 2010, AT&T, AAA and the State Patrol have partnered together to hold events in 121 cities throughout Wisconsin, reaching more than 46,000 high school students.

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Give snow plow drivers room as they work to keep roads clear, safe this winter

Wisconsin DOT - Dec. 5

Snow plow driver Tim Ball has worked for the Jefferson County Highway Department for 20 years and knows what is involved in keeping roads safe for winter driving.

The snow plow trucks that he and about 770 fellow county employees throughout Wisconsin operate are built for power, not agility, so it is up to every motorist to be aware when snow plows are present and to work with plow drivers to keep everyone on the road safe.

"When you see a plow truck out there, just keep your safe distance behind," says Ball, adding that if drivers need to pass a working snow plow wait until there is a spot to do so safely.


Most snow plow truck involved crashes occur when the truck is rear-ended by another vehicle. To avoid rear-end collisions, drivers should pay close attention to driving, slow down and maintain the legally required distance of at least 200 feet from the rear of a snowplow engaged in snow and ice removal on a highway with a posted speed limit of more than 35 mph and at least 75 feet for posted speed limits of 35 mph and slower.

Understanding snow plow behavior and using the right safety measures when in the vicinity of a working snow plow go a long way toward decreasing the chance of traffic incidents occurring and keeping everyone on the road safe.     

Promote safe roads by knowing snow plow behavior

Plows move slowly - Snow plows travel between 25 and 35 mph, which in many cases is much slower than posted speeds. Motorists should slow down and follow in the plow's freshly cleared path, maintaining a safe and legal distance.  

Plows stop suddenly - Snow plows frequently and with little warning slow down or stop suddenly when they encounter obstacles like a stuck or stalled vehicle. Keeping a safe distance allows enough time to react during adverse winter driving conditions.  

Plows are tough to see - During times of poor visibility, snow plow taillights may be tough to see until it’s too late. Yet another reason to slow down, avoid all distractions and pay extra attention to the road ahead.

Plows decrease visibility - Snow being pushed by or otherwise blowing from the plow can limit visibility within the truck's general vicinity. In addition to following at a safe distance, drivers approaching an oncoming snow plow should slow down and proceed with caution.

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