The latest plans for the Hwy. 15 improvement project were presented at a public information meeting at Hortonville High School on Wednesday, Nov. 7.
Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) officials were on hand to present the latest plan, answer questions, and listen to comments, concerns and suggestions. The meeting was held in an open house format with several project staff members on hand.
WisDOT is planning to expand 11 miles of Hwy. 15 (from Hwy. 45 in New London to Lily of the Valley Drive in Greenville) to a four-lane divided highway bypassing the Village of Hortonville to the north.
Roundabouts will be installed at the County T/Givens Road/Hwy. 15 intersection and the County JJ/Hwy. 15 intersection, which will connect the new bypass to existing Hwy. 15.
Other project improvements include bridges carrying Hwy. 15 over Nash Street, County M and the Canadian National Railroad (west of Hortonville), as well as a possible multi-use trail connecting Hortonville to Greenville.
The proposed improvements to Hwy. 15 are needed to eliminate design deficiencies, improve safety, reduce congestion, provide safe access and preserve the corridor for future transportation use.
The final environmental impact statement for the project was completed in 2009 and the project was enumerated for funding by the Transportation Projects Commission (TPC) in 2010. TPC members include the governor, several state legislators, and citizen representatives.
By enumerating a project for funding, the TPC authorizes design to begin, which is a key step in securing funds to construct highway projects. WisDOT began preliminary design in late January of this year.
WisDOT is moving forward with the basic plan for widening Hwy. 15 that was approved in 2009. Work completed over the last several months includes:
• Field survey
• Soil borings
• Traffic counts and analysis
• Crash analysis
• Review of access and median opening locations
• General preliminary engineering review of plans/concept identified during the environmental study phase
Based on this preliminary engineering review of the plans, eight modifications are being considered to improve design through improved safety, reduced impacts and lower project costs. The map and key accompanying this article show those modifications. The modifications were discussed by WisDOT Project Manager Bill Bertrand and residents attending the meeting during a question and answer session.
“The multi-use trail is only conceptual at this point,” said Bertrand as he discussed the trail that would connect Hortonville and Greenville. “It is contingent upon money being available and the townships being willing to take ownership of the trail and assume responsibility for future maintenance of the trial. There are federal requirements regarding the trail, and this is a rare opportunity to create a safe corridor to connect Hortonville and Greenville. On the eastern end of our project, we are looking to extend the multi-use trail along the west side of Julius Drive to connect with the existing trail system instead of continuing the trail along the south side of Hwy 15 all the way to Lily of the Valley Drive. This decision is based on increased safety for trail users as there are fewer driveways to cross along the west side (5) of Julius Drive rather than keeping the trail along the south side of Hwy 15 (11). Also, having the trail on the west side of Julius Drive will allow for a greater offset from the roadway.”
One resident in attendance asked why there was one railroad bridge, but not two. Bertrand said the bridge over the tracks is needed for safety reasons due to the installation of a roundabout near the tracks west of Givens Road.
“We’re doing this for car traffic safety reasons, not because of rail traffic,” said Bertrand. “Rail traffic is low at both the crossing west of Givens Road and the crossing east of Manley Road.”
Another resident asked what the posted speed would be at the roundabouts.
“The posted speed limit on Hwy. 15 is 55 mph, and there will be no posted reduced speed at the roundabout,” explained Bertrand. “The roundabout design speed is about 20 mph.”
The 60-foot median was also questioned, as one resident wondered why it had to be so wide.
“The 60-foot median is the desired size standard,” commented Bertrand. “It’s safer. If we narrowed it to 50 feet, it would bring the traffic closer together, which could raise safety issues. We are designing this project to desirable standards, not minimal standards, because of the amount of money being invested in this project.”
Bertrand also noted that previous design options would have called for the relocation of Wolfrath’s Nursery and three homes, but the most recent option will move the road to the south while avoiding archaeological sites and allowing Wolfrath’s to remain in their current location. Two homes on the north side will be saved, but two other houses on the south side are now proposed to be acquired.
“We’re looking to have the best product when we’re done,” concluded Bertrand. “Your input helps us do that.”
Hwy. 15 Expressway Designation Study
WisDOT is also conducting a concurrent but separate study to designate Hwy. 15 as an “expressway” between New London and Greenville. By definition, an expressway is a divided arterial highway for through traffic with full or partial control of access and some grade separations at intersections.
This “expressway” designation will assist WisDOT in their efforts to control future access along Hwy. 15 and help protect their investment in this corridor. The Expressway Designation Study is not directly a part of the Hwy. 15 project, but will give more authority to WisDOT on future access options.
A public hearing for the expressway designation study is planned for early 2013.
Preliminary road design began at the beginning of this year and is scheduled to be completed by late 2013. Final design will begin in late 2013 and continue through the middle of 2016. Real estate acquisition will begin in mid-2014 and continue through mid-2016, while utility relocation will begin in mid-2015 and end in mid-2016. Construction will begin in mid-2016 and conclude by late 2018 or 2019.
For general project information, visit www.dot.wisconsin.gov/projects/neregion/15/index.htm.