US 53 Corridor Preservation Study - Barron, Washburn and Douglas Counties


US 53, Rice Lake to Superior, in Barron, Washburn and Douglas counties


Between 2006 and 2017, WisDOT Northwest Region completed a corridor preservation study to provide a blue-print, so local development can be planned and implemented in harmony with the operational demands of the highway. The goal of the 75-mile corridor preservation effort is to protect the public investment in US 53 by planning for the long-term mobility and safety needs along the highway.

The study may officially map and preserve the future right of way footprint necessary to construct the improvements that would be needed at select locations.

This corridor preservation process will officially map the long-term vision of US 53 between Rice Lake and Superior. The project is divided into six areas:

Why is this project needed?

US 53 is a backbone route in WisDOT's Corridors 2020 Plan and has a segment of the corridor in the National Highway System (NHS). The plan places a high priority in protecting highway investments that connect major economic/population centers and carry long-distance, statewide traffic.

The study will:

  • Examine existing conditions and identify future needs along the US 53 corridor.
  • Develop a long-term vision for the corridor that would update its designation as a statutorily (Wis. Stats. 84.295) declared freeway/expressway.
  • Officially map the vision of the future improvements including future interchange locations, future overpasses/underpasses, and any local road system modifications.
  • Preserve the necessary right of way until such time that construction funds are ultimately obtained.
  • Avoid or minimize impacts to:
    • Existing homes
    • Businesses
    • Farm operations
    • Wetlands
    • Endangered/threatened species
    • Archeological/historic sites

US 53 corridor is recognized one of Wisconsin's most important north-south corridors. The desire for conversion to a freeway/expressway was initiated in the late 1960s. The final segment of the four-lane facility between Rice Lake and Superior was completed in 1999.

Between 1969 and 2006, US 53 has experienced several capacity expansion and safety enhancements between La Crosse and Superior. These improvements represented significant investments by WisDOT.

As communities and traffic volumes along US 53 grow, demand for access along US 53 and concern about safety at access points will continue to increase. Currently, six intersections along the corridor have higher than acceptable fatality rates from traffic crashes:

  • Barron County V
  • Washburn County B
  • Washburn County E
  • US 63 at Trego
  • WIS 77 at Minong
  • Douglas County B

Major steps in preparing these preservation plans include:

  • Gathering existing data such as traffic volumes, crash data and information about existing land use and traffic patterns.
  • Gathering information about future land use, travel demand and corridor improvement needs.
  • Analyzing future improvements in relation to cost, local impacts and environmental impacts.
  • Preparing alternative concept drawings for corridor improvements.  

Northern Douglas County area (WCL Railroad to Superior)

Project location

US 53, WCL Railroad (south of Wasko Road) to 53rd Avenue East (Superior), in Douglas county.

Environmental assessment

Solon Springs area (Gordon to Bennett)

Project location

US 53, Wascott/Gordon town line to just south of the Solon Springs/Bennett town lane, in Douglas County. Communities in the study area include the towns of Bennett, Gordon, Solon Springs, Wascott and the village of Solon Springs.

Environmental Assessment

Minong area (Lampson to Gordon)

Project location

US 53, just north of Schnagel Road (approximately 2.25 miles south of Lampson) to the Wascott/Gordon Town line. The limits also extend one mile east and west from US 53, and are located in Washburn and Douglas counties.

Environmental assessment

Spooner/Trego area (WIS 70 to Lampson)

Project location

US 53, WIS 70 (Spooner) to just north of US 63 (Lampson), in Washburn County.

Environmental assessment

Sarona area (Haugen to WIS 70)

Project location

US 53, Haugen to WIS 70, in city of Sarona, in Washburn County.

Alternatives being considered

Haugen Area (26th Avenue to 30th Avenue)

Project location

US 53, 26th Avenue to 30th Avenue, near Haugen, in Barron County.

Environmental assessment


Marc Bowker
WisDOT Northwest Region Planning Engineer
(715) 635-4975

Dena Ryan
WisDOT Northwest Region Urban and Regional Planner
(715) 395-3030

David Wincentsen
WisDOT Northwest Region Planning Supervisor
(715) 836-5170 

Tim Mason
WisDOT Northwest Region Planning Chief
(715) 836-4628

Christena T. O'Brien
WisDOT Northwest Region Communications Manager
(715) 833-9814, (715) 828-9471

Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT)
Northwest Region, Superior Office
1701 N. Fourth St.
Superior, WI 54880
(715) 392-7925, (800) 590-1868
WI Telecommunications Relay System (TTY): 711