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US 51, Stoughton Rd. Corridor Study - Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Who is conducting this study?

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) Southwest Region and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) are initiating the study. WisDOT has hired the consulting firm KL Engineering, Inc. to assist them with their efforts.

What are the limits of the study?

The study limits extend from Terminal Drive/Voges Road in McFarland to WIS 19 in the Village of DeForest, a distance of approximately 11 miles. The study passes through the City of Madison, the City of Monona, and the Towns of Blooming Grove and Burke in Dane County. This study matches the limits of two other WisDOT projects:

  • US 51, Reardon Road to County V (Grinde Road) – beginning north of the Highway 19 interchange, WisDOT plans to reconstruct this segment of US 51 into a 4-lane divided freeway starting in September 2012.
  • US 51 (I-39/90 - US 12/18), Stoughton to McFarland – beginning directly south of the Terminal Drive/Voges Road intersection, WisDOT is conducting a long term study to address safety, congestion and the lack of bicycle and pedestrian facilities in this 18.4 mile corridor. Alternatives include expansion to 4 lanes in some areas and a potential bypass of Stoughton. No construction activities are planned at this time.

What is the scope of this study?

The study includes completion of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and will identify how travel needs can be met as traffic continues to increase on the east side of Madison through the next twenty five years (approximately 2040). The EIS will evaluate potential alternatives, assess their potential impacts, incorporate public and agency comments, and document the preferred alternative.

Why is this study being done?

An approved EIS is necessary to evaluate and identify the major improvements that will be necessary for US 51 to provide a safe and efficient multi-modal facility for the traveling public. In 2003, WisDOT and FHWA completed a Needs Assessment that showed there are existing problems with safety, congestion and bicycle and pedestrian connectivity in the Stoughton Road corridor. In 2004, a second phase of the study continued to examine the corridor and evaluate potential alternatives that would address the needs of the corridor. In 2012, the second phase of study was completed with a corridor-wide analysis of three alternatives which are detailed in the Traffic, Safety and Needs Identification Analysis (TSNIA). The current study will further refine the alternatives of the TSNIA and develop new concepts or components to address the changes that have occurred in the corridor. The study will then move the viable alternatives through the EIS process with the local municipalities and interested stakeholders as strong partners.

How is this phase of the study different from previous phases?

This is an approved capacity expansion study through the Wisconsin Transportation Projects Commission (TPC). This allows for the consideration of additional lanes on Stoughton Road. Previously WisDOT was not authorized to include expansion as an alternative. The TPC consists of the Governor, three citizen members appointed by the Governor, five senators, five representatives, and the WisDOT Secretary (non-voting member). The TPC is responsible for evaluating the merits of candidate Major Projects and recommending them to the Governor and Legislature for authorization for construction. A full range of alternatives will continue to be considered in the EIS.

What alternatives were identified in the previous phase of the study?

Four alternatives have been identified:
No Build Alternative – an option that incorporates infrastructure maintenance. Pavement and structures are maintained, but there are otherwise no changes to the current configuration of the corridor.

Alternative A - a Transportation System Management alternative that includes improvements designed to improve mobility and increase the safety of several intersections by maximizing the existing infrastructure. Turn lanes are extended, additional turn lanes added, and access points restricted, but only one interchange is included.

Alternative B - an Enhanced Expressway alternative has additional turn lanes at intersections and interchanges at the areas with the most significant traffic safety and mobility needs.

Alternative C – a Freeway concept with no traffic signals or stop signs on Stoughton Road from Terminal Drive/Voges Road to WIS 19.

A preferred alternative could be a combination of aspects of all three alternatives.

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 most drivers are cautious, prudent and drive at speeds that are reasonable and proper for that roadway, regardless of the speed limit. If speeds are arbitrarily lowered, the majority of drivers will continue to drive the speed that is reasonable to them. Studies have shown that vehicle speeds reduce by one fourth of the speed reduction. So for example, reducing the speed limit from 55 mph to 50 mph will reduce the average vehicle speed by only 1 mph. Posting speeds lower or higher than the majority speed has often resulted in an increase in traffic crashes due to tailgating, improper passing, reckless driving and excessive weaving. Speed limits are set within 5 mph of the observed 85th percentile or within 2 mph of the observed average speed.

When will one of these alternatives be selected?

The schedule calls for completing the draft EIS (DEIS) in the Fall of 2014 and the final EIS with a preferred alternative by the Fall of 2015.

When will the public have opportunities to comment on the alternatives and the study?

As part of the previous Stoughton Road Corridor Studies, three Public Involvement Meetings (PIMs) were held along with several workshops, presentations to stakeholders and agency coordination meetings which provided opportunities for comment on the purpose and need of this study. In the EIS Phase of the study, two PIMs have been held (August 14, 2012 and March 19, 2013) to provide opportunities to comment on the alternatives. After the alternatives have been finalized and their impacts evaluated, the DEIS will be published and available for public comments. A Public Hearing will be conducted after the DEIS is published. A third PIM will be held after the preferred alternative has been identified and just prior to the final EIS (FEIS) being completed. Comments will be taken throughout the study until it is completed via presentations to local government committees, neighborhood associations and Stakeholders and the project website.

Who has to approve the preferred alternative that is selected for the Final EIS?

The alternatives will be presented to local municipalities, agencies and the public for comment. WisDOT selects a preferred alternative and seeks the concurrence of the resource agencies. Upon concurrence, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) approves the preferred alternative. These approvals are sufficient for approval of the FEIS. However, before a project is built in the Madison area using federal funds, the Madison Area Transportation Planning Board must include the project in the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP).

How is funding authorized?

The environmental study process will be completed when the FEIS is signed and a Record of Decision (ROD) is issued by FHWA. However, final design and construction cannot occur until funding of the preferred alternative is requested of and enumerated by the TPC. WisDOT times such requests based on a variety of factors including highway program priorities, changes to traffic patterns, and safety. The TPC will then recommend projects that most warrant funding to the Legislature and the Governor. Only then would WisDOT proceed with final plans, real estate acquisition, and construction. Short-term spot improvements identified throughout the process have been and may continue to be implemented as safety and operational needs arise.

When will construction of any preferred alternative on Stoughton Road be completed?

Short-term operational and safety projects will continue to be done over the next few years. Because the corridor is 11 miles long and the scope of the improvements is so great the larger changes represented in the three alternatives may be implemented in phases and are some years away. Funds and an improvement schedule have not yet been committed to and cannot until approved by the TPC.

Why are we going through all this planning work when funds have not been allocated for the larger improvements?

Stoughton Road has long been identified as a corridor with safety and traffic (including bicycle and pedestrian) mobility issues. The previous phases of the study have quantified these problems and provided direction for potential alternatives. With this information, an analysis of the impacts of potential solutions is needed to develop the best alternative for the long term needs of the corridor. An EIS needs to be completed before the project can be enumerated for construction by the TPC. It is important to have a plan for what is needed so that as lands develop and redevelop in the corridor, the possible changes to the roadway can be taken into consideration and costly relocations minimized.

What is the role of transit in handling travel needs in the Stoughton Road corridor?

Coordination with Metro Transit has been ongoing since the first phase of the study. The study includes computer modeling to determine how the existing roadway and proposed alternatives will handle the demand for travel in the corridor in the future. The traffic evaluation model included implementation of the “Locally Preferred Alternative” that emerged from the Transport 2020 study. Even with this high level of transit service in the Madison area, the problems identified in the Needs Assessment are still expected to materialize.

How are the proposed alternatives handling the needs of bicyclists and pedestrians?

All the alternatives provide opportunities for improved bicycle and pedestrian facilities along and across the corridor. Alternative A provides safer facilities and crossings for bicyclists and pedestrians at spot locations. Alternatives B and C include bicycle and pedestrian accommodations via the proposed interchanges or overpasses. New grade-separated bicycle/pedestrian facilities are proposed that can be part of any of the alternatives. WisDOT will continue to work with the municipalities and neighborhoods in the corridor to determine the most appropriate and useable bicycle and pedestrian solutions once a preferred alternative is chosen for the highway. Some of the improvements will be included in the construction projects. Other improvements may require implementation as part of other projects by the local municipalities or participating agencies.

Is the study considering the impact of the alternatives on the neighborhoods along the corridor?

The EIS is considering neighborhood impacts. One of the findings of the Needs Assessment is that the neighborhoods are concerned with the amount of cut-through traffic on local streets. The alternatives look to address this problem by improving travel conditions on Stoughton Road. Under any scenario, balancing the issues and needs of both the neighborhoods and the highway users is important. WisDOT will continue to seek input from the local neighborhood groups on design aspects for the study.

Will noise barriers be included in the alternatives?

The EIS will include an analysis of sound levels. If the Noise Level Criteria (NLC) are approached or exceeded, a noise impact occurs. The NLC for residential land use is 67 decibels (dBA) or when predicted future sound levels exceed existing levels by 15 dBA. If there is an impact, the study will determine whether or not abatement is feasible, reasonable and likely to be incorporated. Reasonable refers to the maximum barrier cost ($30,000) per impacted parcels benefiting from the noise mitigation (receptors). Feasible refers to whether the barrier can provide at least an eight (8) dBA reduction in noise and other constructability issues. Noise barriers that are determined to be reasonable and feasible must receive a vote of support from a simple majority of all votes cast by the owners and residents of the benefitted receptors.

How do the alternatives address the needs of businesses along the corridor?

The EIS will evaluate the impact of all the alternatives on the businesses along the corridor. The study team recognizes that Stoughton Road serves one of Madison’s most important industrial areas, as well as defined areas of medical services, retail, commercial, and office businesses. Business information meetings were held as part of the second phase of the study and will continue. In addition, the study team has met and will continue to meet with individual businesses at their request.

How can I get involved in the process and stay involved?

A local officials and stakeholders database will be developed and include local officials, business groups, community groups, and property owners within 1,000 feet of the highway. The list will be used to send letters and meeting notices to project stakeholders. In addition, to receive updates and notices via email sign up via the project distribution list.

For more information, who do I contact?

Jeff Berens, WisDOT Project Manager
WisDOT Southwest Region, Madison Office
2101 Wright St.
Madison, WI 53704
(608) 245-2656

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US 51 Stoughton Road Study Team, us51stoughtonrdstudy@dot.wi.gov SSI - Contacts
Last modified: August 6, 2014

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