US 18/151 Freeway Conversion Study - Frequently asked questions (FAQ), About the study

About the study | About the official mapping process

Who is conducting the study?

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) Southwest Region is initiating the study. WisDOT has hired the consulting firm Short Elliott Hendrickson Inc. (SEH®) to assist them with their efforts. Local officials from Dane and Iowa counties, property owners and other interested stakeholders are contributing to the study.

What are the limits of the study?

The study limits extend from US 18/151 (Dodgeville) to County MV (Verona), a distance of approximately 28 miles. The study is located in both Dane and Iowa counties.

What is the US 18/151 Freeway Conversion all about?

The US 18/151 Freeway Conversion will result in a plan for the eventual removal of direct access onto US 18/151 over a period of many years. Existing direct access points (such as roads and driveways) will be removed. Access will be at highway interchanges, and there will be a plan for new overpasses or underpasses, and new local road connections.

An analysis of environmental issues associated with freeway conversion is being done in accordance with federal and state requirements. At the conclusion of the study, the lands that will need to be acquired for freeway conversion will be officially mapped so that property owners and local communities can plan accordingly. It is important to note that this study is not planning for any additional capacity (travel lanes) for any of this portion of US 18/151. The plan is considering the addition of auxiliary lanes between County G and the County MV exit on the west side of Verona.

What is the difference between an expressway and a freeway?

Expressways are multi-lane roadways with a median to separate traffic. The posted speed limit is usually 55 to 65 mph, although it may be posted lower in/near urban areas. They have some at-grade intersections with public roads and driveways, allowing vehicles to get directly on/off/across the main highway. Expressways may also include interchanges and grade separations (side roads that go under or over the main road but do not access it directly).

Freeways also have two or more lanes in each direction separated by a median and a 55 to 65 mph posted speed limit. Unlike expressways, freeways have no at-grade accesses of any kind. All crossroads are separated by grade (they go over or under the freeway). They provide access on/off the highway only at interchanges.

The US 18/151 corridor appears to be operating fairly well now, why are additional studies necessary?

As part of the US Highway System, US 18/151 is an important regional roadway connecting major Midwest cities such as Dubuque, Iowa and Madison, Wisconsin. US 18/151 is identified as a Backbone Route in WisDOT’s Connections 2030 Long-Range Transportation Plan. The plan places high priority in protecting these highway investments that connect major economic/population centers and carry long-distance statewide, and inter-state traffic.

As traffic increases over time, it will become increasingly difficult to turn on, off, and/or cross the highway in a safe manner, and the overall potential for crashes will increase. A completed plan will include ways to address problems at individual locations that fit into the big picture plan to convert the entire corridor to a freeway. A completed freeway conversion plan will improve the ability of local communities adjacent to this high-priority corridor to integrate future land use development with the existing and proposed road system.

When would improvements be made?

The physical construction of major improvements along the corridor will occur over a period of many years. WisDOT will continue to monitor safety conditions along the corridor and if warranted, make improvements that focus on maintaining expressway safety, such as extending right and left turn lanes. The need to convert US 18/151 to a freeway due to increasing volumes would still remain, but the timing of construction could be delayed to some extent through these short-term actions.

The first minor change is planned for 2015 which will include the relocation of County E such that the intersection is moved from US 18/151 to WIS 78.

The first major project scheduled for construction is the proposed interchange on the west side of Ridgeway between County BB and Reed Road. Construction for this section is currently scheduled for 2017.

How might this study affect emergency services such as police, fire, EMS, and other public services such as school bus routes?

The study team coordinates directly with all local fire, police, and EMS providers in the study area, as well as with area school districts and their transportation service coordinators. The final highway access plan will accommodate the delivery of emergency services and integrate school bus routes to the greatest extent possible.

What about agricultural operations, especially cross-highway farming?

WisDOT recognizes that agricultural operations are an important part of the local and statewide economy. Many operations currently use US 18/151 for travel and/or to gain access to the opposite side of the highway. A survey and an advisory group meeting focusing on area farming issues were held to add to our understanding of current and future operation needs. The information will be used to ensure that agricultural needs are accommodated and impacts are minimized to the extent possible by the freeway conversion.

Cost-effective alternative access to local roads is not possible for all properties. Driveways that access individual agricultural fields or farm homes and generate little traffic may be allowed to remain for many years beyond the time when the rest of the roadway has been converted to freeway, as long as they function safely.

What happens after the Environmental Assessment (EA) is completed?

This US 18/151 Freeway Conversion Plan and EA is a planning action to identify improvements. The final design and construction of improvements identified in the EA will be funded as they become statewide priorities. WisDOT is currently creating an Official Map of the right-of-way needed to convert this facility to a freeway under Wisconsin State Statute §84.295(10). This action helps preserve these lands in their undeveloped state until each section of the plan is funded for final design and construction.

Construction of each of the Sections would eventually result in designating this portion US 18/151 as a Freeway under Wisconsin State Statute §84.295. Prior to this designation or completion of the Official Map, WisDOT would hold a public hearing. Construction of the first portion, Section Two, County BB to County HHH, will begin in 2017.

How can I get involved and stay informed?

The public outreach portion of the US 18/151 Conversion Study has concluded. Throughout the study, a total of seven Public Involvement Meetings (PIM) were held in both Iowa and Dane counties to share project plans and obtain input from property owners, business owners, agricultural operators, and other interested parties.

Additional public meetings will be held during the final design and real estate acquisition process for the individual sections identified in the plan, as each is funded. Property owners, representatives of local governments and other stakeholders in the affected areas will be invited to any future meetings.