I-41, WIS 96 (W. Wisconsin Avenue) in the city of Appleton to County F (Scheuring Road) in the city of De Pere,
Outagamie and Brown counties
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) is exploring options to improve I-41 in the project limits to address numerous safety and operational issues. The Wisconsin State Budget signed in 2019 provided WisDOT enumeration for construction of this project. This project is considered a Major Highway Project - a complex and costly project which requires a capacity expansion of over five miles or creation of two and half miles of highway on a new location. Major Projects require extensive environmental review, public involvement and typically require approval by the Transportation Projects Commission, the State Legislature and the Governor. More information regarding Major Projects can be found on WisDOT's Major Highway Development webpage.
I-41 is a critical backbone route in Wisconsin’s Connections 2030 State Highway Plan and part of the National Highway System. Backbone routes are critical to travel patterns and support the state’s economy. I-41 is a major passenger and freight route connecting the Fox Cities to Fond du Lac and Milwaukee to the south and Green Bay to the north. The corridor provides access to major manufacturing areas, residences, an international airport, educational institutions and universities, regional shopping centers, entertainment districts, and hospitals.
Why is the project needed?
Today, the 23-mile segment of I-41 between WIS 96 in Outagamie County and County F in Brown County is currently 4 lanes (2 lanes in each direction) and experiences crashes at a rate greater than similar freeways in Wisconsin, is congested, and has multiple roadway design deficiencies. In addition, much of the I-41 pavement and several bridges are reaching the end of their useful lives and need replacing.
The purpose of the project is also to address the outdated Wrightstown Safety and Weight Enforcement Facility (SWEF) to allow it to operate effectively with proposed improvements to I-41. Why is the project needed?
- Safety: Portions of this segment of I-41 have a crash rate higher than the statewide average for similar roadways. Frequent crashes in the corridor create congestion and unexpected delays. These unexpected delays increase travel times through the corridor and decrease the travel time reliability of both I-41 and the local roadway system.
- Congestion: This segment of I-41 is currently experiencing heavy congestion, especially during weekday a.m. and p.m. peak travel times. I-41 carries up to 74,000 vehicles each day through the project area. Since 2012, traffic on I-41 in the study area has increased by approximately 20 percent. During that same period traffic increased by approximately 10 percent nationwide on all roads (FHWA 2020). By 2045, the Average Annual Daily Traffic on I-41 is expected to increase between 20 and 56 percent, depending on location.
- Roadway Deficiencies: Much of the original pavement was built in the 1960s and although pavement maintenance continues, the pavement has reached the end of its useful life, and further rehabilitations are no longer cost effective. Numerous geometric and bridge deficiencies exist within the corridor, including substandard bridge clearance, substandard vertical and horizontal curves, and substandard ramp design, substandard interchange spacing and substandard shoulder widths. These deficiencies detract from safety and contribute to operational problems throughout the corridor.
- Outdated Wrightstown Safety and Weight Enforcement Facility (SWEF): WisDOT is studying replacing the Wrightstown SWEF in Outagamie County, which is accessible from northbound I-41, about 0.75 mile south of County U. The existing SWEF is considered functionally obsolete in that it does not have modern technology to weigh and inspect commercial motor vehicle truck traffic. In addition to replacing the SWEF, the State Patrol may move its Northeast Region Headquarters (currently in Fond du Lac) to this site. Relocating the State Patrol Northeast Region Headquarters from Fond du Lac to the Wrightstown SWEF site would make the headquarters more centrally located within the region. The current headquarters needs upgrading and replacing it with a new building co-located with the SWEF would save money.
In addition to the No Build Alternative, several improvement alternatives are being considered as part of the project. The proposed improvement alternatives will assess possible solutions for reducing congestion on I-41 and consider updating the roadway and bridges to current standards to address deficiencies.
The reconstruction of I-41 to both a 4-lane and 6-lane section will be considered.
There are eight existing and one planned service interchanges in the corridor between WIS 96 and County F. Service interchanges provide access between the freeway (in this case I-41) and local surface streets.
The capacity, conditions and operations will be studied at each existing and proposed service interchange. Four types of service interchanges are being considered as part of the project: A diamond, a diamond with roundabouts, a diverging diamond and a partial cloverleaf diamond interchange.
Existing Service Interchanges
- WIS 15/County OO (W Northland Avenue)
- WIS 47 (N Richmond Street)
- County E (N Ballard Road)
- County N (Freedom Road)
- WIS 55 (Delanglade Street)
- County J (Hyland Avenue)
- County U (County Line Road)
- County S (Freedom Road)
- South Bridge Connector (planned new interchange)
A system interchange carries traffic from one freeway to another via a free-flow network of ramps and connectors. The WIS 441 interchange on I-41 is a system interchange.
The existing WIS 441 system interchange has operational deficiencies due to the high volume of weaving traffic and proximity to County E (Ballard Road). Improvement to be studied at the interchange include adding either auxiliary lanes or a collector-distributor road between WIS 441 and County E (Ballard Road).
The I-41 Project is currently preparing an Environmental Assessment (EA). The environmental documentation process includes development of a project purpose and need, range of alternatives, evaluation and screening of alternatives and identification of a preferred alternative. Numerous factors are considered throughout the environmental document development process including safety, mobility, compatibility with state/regional/local plans, engineering design standards, impacts to the socio-economic, natural and physical environment, cost, and input from the public and state/federal review agencies.
WisDOT welcomes public comments and seeks to work in partnership with citizens and communities to develop a safe, efficient transportation system. Communication between citizens and WisDOT is essential at every point in the process. Please see the I-41 public involvement webpage for upcoming meetings and past meeting material.