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WisDOT presents plan for I-94 and Hwy. 35 lane additions

Stacey Rusch, a project manager for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, talks with a citizen about the planned lane and ramp additions to Interstate 94 and Hwy. 35. WisDOT held a public involvement meeting about the 2017 project at Hudson Middle School last week. (Hudson Star-Observer photo by Randy Hanson)1 / 3
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The Wisconsin Department of Transportation unveiled plans last week for the addition of traffic and ramp lanes on Interstate 94 and Hwy. 35 at Hudson.

The construction is scheduled for 2017.

“The big reason for the project is that there are traffic issues with capacity, mostly on westbound (lanes),” Greg Weyandt of the engineering firm Short Elliott Hendrickson Inc. said during the public involvement meeting in the Hudson Middle School cafeteria the evening of March 17.

But a traffic lane also will be added to eastbound I-94, starting at the Carmichael Road ramp onto the freeway, extending through the southbound Hwy. 35 ramp, and continuing to Hanley Road.

SEH Inc. has the state contract to design the highway improvements. WisDOT is proposing to build two segments of noise wall as part of the project.

One of the walls would follow the ramp from eastbound I-94 onto southbound Hwy. 35, reducing noise levels for homes on Amherst Circle and Bridgewater Trail in the Lighthouse subdivision.

The other shorter stretch of wall would protect some townhouses east of Heritage Boulevard in the Heritage Greens neighborhood.

Another major component of the construction is the replacement the bridge decks over Hwy. 35 North and Front Street at I-94 Exit 1.

That part of the project will require the closure of the ramp from southbound Hwy. 35 to eastbound I-94 for most of the summer of 2017.

The other ramps at the interchange will remain open, except for periodic short-term closures during off-peak traffic hours.

The project limits extend along I-94 from 0.85 miles east of the Hwy. 12/County U (Exit 4) interchange to the state line, a distance of 4.7 miles; and along southbound Hwy. 35 from I-94 to Hanley Road, about 0.8 miles.

Additional lanes will be constructed between the interchanges of westbound I-94 to reduce the congestion of traffic headed into the Twin Cities.

The added lanes also will give motorists coming onto the freeway more room to merge into traffic.

Noise barriers

The news of proposed noise barriers will likely disappoint some residents of the Lighthouse subdivision who would like a wall between their homes and I-94.

WisDOT Project Manager Stacey Rusch explained the process the department went through in determining where to put the walls.

WisDOT is required to do a study of the noise impacts and possible mitigation measures anytime it undertakes a Type I federal aid highway project. The I-94 and Hwy. 35 project is a Type I project because it will add traffic lanes.

Rusch said the department took noise readings along the project area, and many of them were above the 67-decibel threshold for residential neighborhoods, allowing for construction of a noise barrier.

But a noise barrier also has to be determined “reasonable” for the state to build it. That means the cost of the wall can’t exceed $30,000 per home receiving at least an eight-decibel reduction in noise.

Weyandt of SEH Inc. said that gullies between I-94 and homes in the Lighthouse subdivision would require building sound walls 40 to 50 feet tall.

“Financially, it’s not viable,” Weyandt said. “It was over $100,000 (per home).”

The residents of the homes in the Lighthouse and Heritage Greens identified as benefiting from the noise barriers will vote on whether they want them installed.

The walls will be built if a simple majority of voters favor them.

Ramp closure

Rusch said the clearance under the I-94 bridge over Hwy. 35 at Exit 1 is the reason the eastbound I-94 ramp will be closed much of the summer of 2017.

She said that ramp also receives the least amount of traffic at the interchange. In addition, it is more likely to be used by Hudson residents who can find their way to the Carmichael Road or Hwy. 12 interchanges to get on eastbound I-94.

“During the final design we’ll be working with the city and emergency services to minimize the impacts there, to minimize the length of those closures,” Rusch said.

She said work on the final design of the project will begin after public input from the recent meeting is reviewed.

WisDOT will need to acquire small land parcels in two locations in order to widen the roadway and add a lane. One is an area of eastbound I-94 that has steep slopes. The other is along the ramp from eastbound I-94 to southbound Hwy. 35.

The design work is scheduled to be completed in 2016. Construction is planned to start in the spring of 2017 and end in late fall of that year.

The construction cost of the project is estimated at $30.8 million.

Randy Hanson

Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.

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