US 51 Corridor Study (Stoughton-McFarland) - Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Who is conducting this study?

WisDOT Southwest Region and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) are initiating the study. WisDOT has hired the consulting firm Strand Associates to assist them with their efforts.

Why is this study being done?

An approved environmental document is necessary to evaluate and identify the improvements that will be necessary for US 51 to provide a safe and efficient facility for the traveling public. In 2004, WisDOT completed a Needs Assessment that showed there are existing geometric deficiencies in the US 51 corridor (such as poor visibility at curves and intersections, obstacles that are too close to the roadway, and lack of turning lanes).

Problems with safety and congestion have been voiced by citizens throughout the study. A frequent concern heard is: left turns onto and off of the highway are difficult and dangerous. There is also limited ability to pass slower-moving vehicles. Crash rates along the corridor and injury crash rates are above the statewide average for similar types of roadways. Projected traffic volumes will produce unacceptable congestion at peak travel times at many locations. The lack of bike and pedestrian facilities is also noted. These problems will worsen as additional jobs and residences develop in the area.

What is the scope of this study?

The study includes completion of an Environmental Assessment (EA) that will evaluate alternatives that will address corridor needs, including safety, pavement condition and traffic operations. It will also evaluate bicycle and pedestrian facilities along the corridor.

Why has the scope of the study changed from the previous EIS?

A Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) was completed for the corridor at the end of 2013 but was not published due to federal fiscal constraint requirements. The federal fiscal constraint requirement applied to WisDOT environmental studies requires funding for the next major action to advance the project within a reasonable timeframe. Based on statewide priorities, it was determined that the US 51 corridor alternatives proposed in the DEIS would not receive funding for the next major action to advance the project.

Options were investigated to fund a fiscally constrained improvement project that would address the existing safety, operations, and pavement issues on the corridor while still addressing the purpose and need of the study. It was determined that the most effective course of action was to modify the existing DEIS into two separate environmental documents: an EA to address near-term corridor needs and a Tier 1 EIS that would address long-term corridor needs.

In December 2015, WisDOT proposed the removal of the Tiered EIS process from the US 51 study documentation because funding for Tier 1 EIS improvements is not anticipated within the planning horizon. It could be 30+ years before improvements recommended in the Tier 1 EIS might align with funding. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) agreed to removal of the Tier 1 EIS from the study in February 2016.

What are the alternatives under consideration?

The EA will document the development of alternatives that will address corridor needs, including safety, pavement condition, and traffic operations.

These alternatives consist of the following:

No Build

  • No improvements would be provided other than routine maintenance and the resurfacing projects already programmed. The No Build Alternative serves as a baseline for comparison to the Build Alternatives.

Alternative A

  • Alternative A is the Low Build alternative, it does not add capacity (no new through travel lanes).
    • Reconstruction of 2-lane US 51 east of Stoughton
    • Safety improvements in Stoughton
    • Roundabout or signal at two intersections
    • Pavement replacement of rural 2-lane US 51 between Stoughton (County B East) and McFarland
    • Safety improvements in McFarland
    • Pavement replacement between Larson Beach Road and Terminal Drive/Voges Road in McFarland
    • Siggelkow Road interchange ramp improvements and addition of auxiliary lanes north of Siggelkow Road
    • Evaluation of bicycle and pedestrian accommodations

Alternative B

  • Alternative B is the expansion alternative and has several component improvements:
    • Reconstruction of 2-lane US 51 east of Stoughton
    • Safety improvements in Stoughton
    • Construct a 4-lane Stoughton bypass around the north and east sides of the city
    • Rural 4-lane expansion between Stoughton (County B East) and McFarland
    • Urban 4-lane reconstruction in McFarland
    • Pavement replacement between Larson Beach Road and Terminal Drive/Voges Road in McFarland
    • Siggelkow Road interchange ramp improvements and addition of auxiliary lanes north of Siggelkow Road
    • Evaluation of bicycle and pedestrian accommodations

Alternative H

  • Alternative H is the “hybrid” alternative that combines some aspects of Alternative A (Low Build) and Alternative B (4-Lane Expansion).
    • Reconstruction of 2-lane US 51 east of Stoughton
    • Reconstruction of 2-lane and 4-lane US 51 through downtown Stoughton
    • Urban and rural 4-lane reconstruction along the west side of Stoughton (WIS 138 to County B East)
    • Reconstruction of rural 2-lane US 51between Stoughton (County B East) and McFarland
    • Urban 4-lane reconstruction in McFarland
    • Pavement replacement between Larson Beach Road and Terminal Drive/Voges Road in McFarland
    • Siggelkow Road interchange ramp improvements and addition of auxiliary lanes north of Siggelkow Road
    • Evaluation of bicycle and pedestrian accommodations

When will one of these alternatives be selected?

Alternative H has been identified by WisDOT as the preferred alternative for the corridor. Alternative H best satisfies the purpose and need elements of the study compared to the No Build alternative and Alternative A. Alternative A also has lower impacts and costs when compared to Alternative B, and is anticipated to meet the federal fiscal constraint requirement, while Alternative B is not. In addition, the majority of public comments received support Alternative H over the other alternatives.

When will the public have opportunities to comment?

​A public hearing was held on April 20-21, 2021. The public had two opportunities to participate:

  1. Virtual YouTube​ Live​ presentation on April 20, 2021
  2. In-person at the Stoughton Wellness & Athletic Center (SWAC) on April 21​, 2021.
  • Additional public hearing materials, including the public hearing presentation, handout, and exhibits are available on the Public Involvement page​.

What about environmental impacts?

Environmental impacts will be an important part of the comparison of alternatives. Evaluation of the potential impacts to wetland, farmland, archaeological and historic resources, and other resources will be detailed in the EA.

How is funding authorized?

When the EA was completed and approved by FHWA in November 2020, the project was submitted to the Transportation Projects Commission (TPC) for approval. The TPC consists of the Governor, three citizen members who are appointed by the Governor, five senators, five representatives, and the WisDOT Secretary (non-voting member). The TPC approved the project for funding is December 2020.

How will the alternatives handle the needs of bicyclists and pedestrians?

WisDOT will identify bicycle and pedestrian needs throughout the corridor and attempt to address issues where feasible.

Will the project continue if traffic volumes decrease in the future?

There are existing geometric deficiencies and problems with safety, pavement condition, and bike and pedestrian connectivity in the US 51 corridor that should be addressed. Funds have not been committed for a project and improvements could be delayed, depending on need, or may be staged to address corridor issues, as warranted.

Has lowering the speed limit been considered?

A major consideration when setting speed limits is the prevailing or majority speed of drivers. The nationally accepted principle is that the majority of drivers are cautious, prudent and drive at speeds that are reasonable and proper for that roadway, regardless of the speed limit. If speed limits are arbitrarily lowered, the majority of drivers will continue to drive the speed that is reasonable to them. ​Posting speeds lower or higher than the majority speed of drivers has often resulted in an increase in traffic crashes due to tailgating, improper passing, reckless driving and excessive weaving. Speed limits are typically set within 5 mph of the observed 85th percentile or within 2 mph of the observed average speed.

For more information, who should I contact?

Jeff Berens, WisDOT Project Manager
2101 Wright St.
Madison, WI 53704
(608) 245-2656
jeff.berens@dot.wi.gov​​​​