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


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


A completed corridor preservation study will 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.

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

Leading options

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 Planning Engineer
(715) 635-4975

Dena Young, WisDOT Urban and Regional Planner
(715) 395-3030

Jeffrey Emerson, WisDOT Planning Supervisor
(715) 225-9435

Tom Beekman, WisDOT Planning Chief
(715) 836-4628

Diana Maas, WisDOT Northwest Region Communications Manager
Northwest Region, Spooner Office
W7102 Green Valley Rd.
Spooner, WI 54801
(715) 635-4968

Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT)
Northwest Region, Superior Office
1701 N. 4th St.
Superior, WI 54880
(715) 392-7925
WI Telecommunications Relay System (TTY): 711