Hearing highlights I-94 corridor expansion
If funding is approved, a 7.5-mile stretch of Interstate 94 affecting the towns of Hudson, Warren and Kinnickinnic and the Village of Roberts from U.S. Highway 12 to 130th Street will be completely reconstructed with lanes added beginning in six years.
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) held a public hearing for the environmental assessment of the I-94 Corridor Expansion Study Wednesday, June 18, at St. Croix Central Elementary School in Roberts.
The hearing gave residents the chance to provide verbal and written testimony, questions and concerns on environmental impacts of the proposed project. Attendees were informed of and asked to provide testimony on the location and design features of the proposed improvements and alternatives being considered; the Environmental Assessment document; and project activities that require authorization from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers under the Clean Water Act for placing fill into waters of the United States including wetlands.
That testimony is considered as decisions are made on proposed project alternatives.
According to a WisDOT hearing packet, the final environmental document prepared following the public hearing will be the decision document for the proposed improvements.
Environmental documentation process
The environmental documentation process develops a project’s purpose and need, a variety of alternatives to choose from, evaluation of the alternatives, and the selection of the preferred alternative.
Factors considered during this process include safety; mobility; compatibility with state, regional and local plans; engineering design standards, impacts to the socio-economic, natural and physical environments; cost; and input from the public and state and federal review agencies.
The final environmental document names a chosen alternative, reasons for the selection and summarizes the results of public testimony and agency comments.
Purpose and need for project
According to the presentation, given by Stephanie Christensen (project manager for ECMS Inc.) I-94 is a high-priority federal and state corridor important to regional and interstate travel. It’s also an important commuter route to the Twin Cities.
The Transportation Projects Commission (TPC) approved a study of the corridor in 2011.
Christensen said trucks moving freight make up about 24 percent of daily traffic on that segment of I-94.
In 1990, 21,300 vehicles moved through the corridor daily. That number grew to 41,900 in 2010. It’s expected to reach 73,600 vehicles by 2038, according to the study. With that increase, crash rates are expected to increase as freeway operations deteriorate, Christensen said.
She explained all highways receive a Level of Service (LOS) grade, which measures the quality of the highway’s operations. A grade of “A” means there is no congestion; an “F” grade pertains to extreme congestion.
An LOS of C is acceptable for a high-priority freeway like 94, and it is at that grade level now, Christensen said.
With growth projections, I-94 between U.S. 12 and State Highway 65 operating with the current four lanes of traffic will meet capacity expansion thresholds by the year 2020, when an estimated 50,000-plus vehicles will pass through daily. This would drop 94’s grade level to a “D,” which is unacceptable for a high-priority freeway, Christensen said.
The results of the study determined that expanding 94 between U.S. Highway 12 and Highway 65 to six lanes is necessary to maintain traffic efficiency and safety.
“Traffic is the main driver why we’re out here and the need for expansion,” Christensen said.
I-94 was originally built in 1958. The pavement, overpass bridges and drainage systems are at the end of their lifespans, Christensen said. These will be addressed even if capacity is not added to 94.
The study identified three construction alternatives to choose from:
No. 1 - No Build: This choice keeps 94 in its current configuration with no expansion. It would include bridge replacements and pavement rehabilitation already scheduled for 2018 to 2020. The cost would be roughly $20 million.
No. 2 - Reconstruction with expansion: No. 2 reconstructs 94 using modern design standards, expanding from four to six lanes between U.S. Hwy 12 and Highway 65, and rebuilds bridges and drainage systems. A rural divided median cross section separates eastbound and westbound lanes of traffic.
No. 3 - Reconstruction with expansion with concrete barrier median Same as No. 2 except a concrete median barrier would separate eastbound and westbound traffic between U.S. Highway 12 and 100th Street. East of 100th Street would use the rural divided median.
The study determined Alternative 2 is the preferred choice. Even though No. 2 and No. 3 are similar, it was found that injury rates are higher with concrete barriers. Alternative 2 will cost an estimated $155 million, while Alternative 3 would be about $160.5 million.
Details of Alternative 2 (recommended)
- Reconstruct I-94 by building six lanes from U.S. 12 through the Highway 65 interchange
- Rebuild the four lanes from Highway 65 through 130th Street
- Maintain existing corridor location
- No closure of existing interchanges
- No new interchanges
- Replace pavement and drainage facilities
- Replace deteriorated, narrow overpass bridges over Kinney Road, 100th Street and 130th Street
- Staged construction with a three-year schedule, which would maintain safety and mobility during the construction
- Temporary pavements and bridges would be constructed to maintain traffic
- Maintain four lanes during peak periods
- No homes or businesses will need to be acquired, therefore zero relocations
- Total area converted to right of way is 23 acres
Many people asked questions at the hearing, ranging from the amount of fill placed in the Kinnickinnic River floodplain to tree replacement to height of the new bridges. Some residents concerns and answers are listed below.
Work impacts to the Kinnickinnic River No fill will be placed in the floodplain, Christensen said.
Tree replacement One resident said during these types of projects, “thousands of trees are taken out and none replanted.” Christensen answered by saying every effort will be made to work around trees, and replanting some may be included in the final design process.
Bridge height at 130th Street The bridge heights will be raised from 14 feet 9 inches to at least 15 feet 3 inches, which should meet modern standards, and allow for modern farm equipment clearance.
Noise abatement No noise abatement structures are planned. They would be ineffective in the locations considered due to the county’s rolling topography and distance from freeway to homes, Christensen said.
Lengthening of bridge spans The bridge spans over Kinney Road, and 100th and 130th streets will be lengthened to between 10 and 15 feet to allow for snowmobiles and wildlife to pass under them (not on pavement).
Livestock fencing Joane Gerken (941 70th Ave., Roberts) is worried about damage to her hay crop from construction dust and the danger to her livestock, which are pastured along I-94.
Real estate acquisition Assessing of property by the county for tax purposes and an appraisal done by WisDOT for right of way acquisition are two separate things. Before any property acquisition begins, WisDOT’s real estate staff will contact the property owners and explain the process.
For more information or to provide written testimony by July 3, contact Mohamed Hayek, WisDOT Northwest Region project manager, at 718 W. Clairemont Ave., Eau Claire, WI 54701; at 715-836-2065; or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For property acquisition questions, contact Troy Stapelmann, WisDOT Northwest Region real estate supervisor at 715-836-3911 or Troy.Stapelmann@dot.wi.gov.
- EA review period ends – July 3
- Prepare final environmental document -- July/August
- Consideration for funding by the legislature – September
- Study phase complete – December
- If the project is funded for construction by the legislature, begin detailed design phase – 2015
- Real estate acquisition –– 2018 to 2020
- Construction – 2020 to 2022
- If the expansion project is not funded, other projects programmed would begin design phases
- Bridge replacements – 2018 to 2020
- Pavement resurfacing – 2018
- Pavement replacement – 2025/2026