The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) has finalized its plans for the County Road T/Interstate 94 interchange project, and construction will begin in May 2016.
Residents were invited to attend an open-house meeting at St. Croix Central Middle School Wednesday, June 11, to ask WisDOT representatives questions and give input on the project.
The interchange (Exit 16) is located about two miles south of the Village of Hammond where County Road T crosses I-94, along the border of the Towns of Pleasant Valley and Rush River.
In a nutshell, according to a WisDOT press release, the project will include widening and flattening the slope of County Road T within a quarter mile of the interchange; replacing the existing County Road T bridge over I-94; improving and lengthening the interchange ramps; reconstructing the ramp intersections, improving visibility and adding roundabouts; and adding a park-and-ride lot with lighting on the parcel southwest of the interchange.
Manager Scott Hasburgh of the Madison-based architectural and engineering firm Mead & Hunt and WisDOT project manager Tara Weiss were on hand at the June 11 meeting to answer questions and collect comments from residents.
Jerry Hanson of the Hammond Snowdrifters snowmobile club was on hand to see if the new interchange will allow snowmobiles access to cross the bridge heading south. The Snowdrifters’ trail currently crosses I-94 on the County Road T bridge.
Hasburgh explained that the roundabouts won’t hinder snowmobiles crossing the bridge. In fact, the shoulders of the road will be widened to eight feet, allowing snowmobiles to “sneak along the sides and get through,” Hasburgh said.
Sidewalks will be added to the interchange, Hasburgh said, because when the state builds a bridge, it’s expected to last 75 years. The sidewalks will be added now in case future development along the I-94 corridor requires pedestrian access across the bridge.
“We’ll still have to go across the bridge and it will be a busy intersection, but I think it will be safer, especially with no cars pulling out,” Hanson said.
Another resident, who declined to be named, said people often don’t stop on the off-ramps at the stop signs now like they should, and he has almost been hit several times due to blind spots.
Mary Lou Pabst, who was there to check on snowmobile accessibility per her son’s request, said vehicles have to pull out almost past the bridge rails on T to see oncoming traffic when exiting the freeway. She said she has seen many accidents there in her lifetime.
“I’m glad they’re doing something, because we need it,” Pabst said. “I don’t mind the roundabouts. I just go right through.”
A local couple who declined to be named were concerned how the roundabout construction will affect business in the Hammond area. They were also worried how they would move farm machinery across the bridge during and after construction, the noise levels and the work hours.
Weiss said the noise should be minimal, with the noisiest part of construction being the bridge pilings, which should take one to two days on each side.
The workers will not usually be active at night, except for the possibility of night work on the Interstate when lane closures are required, Weiss said.
The bridge and interchange will be closed for three weeks from mid-July to August and detoured to either the Roberts or Baldwin exit. It will remain open the rest of the time, though Stage 3 of construction drivers will see one lane closed across the County Road T bridge.
“The intent is for semis and ag equipment to use the colored concrete apron,” Weiss said of the middle portion of the roundabouts.
The detour will go into effect after the Independence Day weekend in 2016, Weiss said. It’s necessary to close County Road T because the intersections at the ramp terminals need to be rebuilt.
“The bridge is nearing the end of its lifecycle too,” Weiss said. The interchange and bridge were built in 1958.
Weiss added that WisDOT’s evaluation of the intersection during field investigations in 2012 showed that traffic signals were not required at the intersection, and that roundabouts were the best solution for the volume of traffic.
Multiple people expressed concern about the slope of T over the bridge, and the speed people travel crossing the bridge. The current speed limit is set at 45 mph.
Weiss said the bridge “will come up, and the south side (of T) is coming up” to level the grade across the bridge for better visibility.
“Roundabouts force people to slow down to about 15 mph, but not stop,” Hasburgh said. “Another thing they do is eliminate the potential for high-speed crashes.”
For more information on the County Road T/I-94 interchange project, contact Tara Weiss at Tara.Weiss@dot.wi.gov or 715-836-2283.
Stages of construction in 2016
Stage 1 (May to mid-July)
- Traffic will be allowed on County Road T with shoulder closures
- Construct new entrance and exit ramps
- Build the east half of the County Road T bridge
- Build parts of the new roundabouts at the ramp terminals
Stage 2 (Mid-July through August)
- County Road T traffic will be detoured for three weeks
- Build roundabouts at the new ramp terminals
- Rebuild County Road T north and south of the roundabouts
- Begin removal of the old bridge
Stage 3 (August to mid-September)
- One lane of the T bridge will be open with a temporary traffic signal
- Build the west half of the T bridge
- Finish removal of the old T bridge and finish the ramps
- Build the park and ride lot
Stage 4 (mid-September through October)
- County Road T traffic allowed on bridge and roundabouts
- Complete concrete curb islands at roundabouts
- Remove temporary asphalt
- Complete final pavement marking