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New bypass opens in Eau Claire

EAU CLAIRE -- Those traveling north in western Wisconsin will find less traffic congestion around Eau Claire starting Monday as the new Highway 53 bypass opens for business.

Monday morning, drivers get their first chance to bypass Eau Claire on a new freeway after more than a decade of development.

Brent Pickard, communications manager for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation's northwest region, says the current highway has had much more traffic than it was ever designed to handle and has averaged a crash a day over the past ten years.

Pickard says the replaced route has 40,000 to 60,000 cars a day, and a dozen stoplights to go through. He says it's anticipated that half those vehicles will move out to the new bypass, which has no stoplights.

Early in the long planning process for the new Highway 53 bypass, local residents, lawmakers and transportation officials argued over whether the new road should be an inner or outer bypass east of Eau Claire.

In 1994, a 79-million dollar inner route was chosen. Its final cost ended up around 121 million dollars.