US 12 Freeway Conversion Study - Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Who is conducting the study?

As authorized by Wisconsin State Statute 84.295, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) Southwest Region is initiating the study. WisDOT has hired the consulting firm MSA Professional Services (MSA) to assist them with their efforts. The consulting firm Kjohnson Engineers (KJ) will be working with MSA to complete the study activities.

What is the Wisconsin State Statute 84.295?

The state statute that allows WisDOT to officially map right of way widths for future freeways and expressways. The purpose of mapping is to prevent conflicting and costly economic development from happening within the right of way mapped, and to help local municipalities plan for their future.

What is the definition of a freeway?

A divided highway with access provided only through interchanges.

What does the US 12 Freeway Conversion Study involve?

The most important thing to know is that the US 12 (WIS 19-Parmenter St.) Freeway Conversion is just that, a study. There is no immediate construction planned on this section of U.S. Highway 12, and no funding allocations have been committed beyond the study phases. The study will consider the feasibility of freeway conversion on this corridor.

The purpose of this study is to conceptualize the conversion of US 12 from the city of Middleton to WIS 19 West into a freeway, taking into account impacts on existing and future land uses, as well as access to the local transportation network. The study will develop strategies and recommendations that integrate land use and transportation systems, so that US 12 operates well into the future. This will allow both WisDOT and the local communities involved to adequately plan for future land use and local transportation network needs. The US 12 Freeway Conversion Study involves three phases:

  • Phase one includes analysis of existing conditions and conceptual design of alternatives for converting at-grade intersections to interchanges, over/under passes, or cul-de-sacs.
  • Phase two includes an evaluation of design concepts to select a preferred alternative.
  • Phase three includes officially mapping right of way for future freeway use.

What are the limits of the study?

The study limits extend from the Parmenter Street interchange to WIS 19 West in the town of Springfield, a distance of approximately 6.1 miles. The study passes through the northernmost portion of the city of Middleton and the town of Springfield in Dane County.

The US 12 corridor appears to be operating well in this area. Why are additional studies necessary?

US 12 is an important principal arterial that serves regional truck and automobile traffic, in addition to providing access to local communities and important connections to other major roadways such as WIS 19, US 14, and the Madison Beltline. As development occurs both within and outside of the corridor, the potential travel demands on the corridor will increase. Experience around the state has demonstrated that capacity and safety problems will result if a long-range plan is not developed and implemented. The most important aspect of this study is how to assure the functional integrity of this important arterial into future years.

What types of long-term improvements will the study consider?

The study will include the development of strategies to preserve functionality and increase safety along the corridor, and will examine the feasibility of the conversion of this portion US 12 into a limited access freeway. Recommended long-term strategies may include the development of interchanges and the elimination of selected at-grade intersections to safely accommodate increasing traffic in the corridor.

When might the actual construction improvements be made?

There are no immediate construction plans or construction funds associated directly with this study. This study will outline improvement alternatives that, if funded, would be constructed over the next couple of decades. Even though the actual improvements may be years away, developing this long-term vision will allow WisDOT and local communities to collectively plan for transportation and land use systems that are compatible with each other for the foreseeable future.

Are modes other than automobile/truck being evaluated?

Yes, the planning process within this study will factor existing and proposed bicycle, pedestrian, snowmobile, and even multimodal facility connections, such as park and ride locations and facility improvements throughout the corridor.

How does this project relate to the North Mendota Parkway project between US 12 north of Middleton and Interstate 39/90/94?

The North Mendota Parkway was studied by local governments under the umbrella of Dane County. Although the two studies are unrelated, the decisions made regarding the routing of the North Mendota Parkway have impacted the recommended strategies of the US 12 Corridor Study. Thus, the consultant team and WisDOT staff are monitoring these efforts and will continue to coordinate with the county to the extent possible.

How can I get involved in this process and stay informed?

Meetings for both local officials and the general public will be held during the study period. The first meeting is tentatively scheduled for September of 2008, and will be used to present draft alternatives to local officials for feedback and suggested revisions. The second meeting will be held in October of 2008 with the general public, and will be a presentation of the study, complete with revisions after considering input from local officials.

A local officials and stakeholders database will be developed and include local officials, business groups, community groups, and property owners within 1,000 feet of the highway. The list will be used to send letters and meeting notices to the stakeholders contained therein.

Does WisDOT or FHWA have criteria or standards to determine when to convert from an expressway to a freeway?

Yes. The statewide access management plan is based upon several safety and traffic movement thresholds to help WisDOT determine whether expressway upgrades or freeway conversions are recommended for a highway. This US 12 corridor is within a Tier 1 section of US 12. Access and traffic management goals for Tier 1 sections call for a maximization of interstate/statewide traffic movement and ultimately call for interchanges, and locked/gated driveways for emergency vehicles. This portion of US 12 is a strong candidate for freeway conversion because it is a high priority multi-lane facility and has current and long-term safety issues due to several at-grade intersections.