DOT readying for heavy tearup of I-90/39 through Janesville

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Neil Johnson
Friday, May 19, 2017

JANESVILLE—If drivers want to see what they're in for this fall on the four-mile section of Interstate 90/39 through Janesville, they need to look no farther than Edgerton.

Crews have been peeling up pavement in a 10-mile stretch of the northbound lanes on I-90/39 starting at the Dane-Rock county line on Edgerton's north side and running north. Northbound traffic veers off into diversion lanes that skirt the area crews are tearing up.

It's one portion of mainline work that's part of the mega-project to expand I-90/39 between Beloit and Madison.

At a public meeting Thursday, state Department of Transportation officials and contract engineers explained how the project will affect the Janesville area this fall.

Under current DOT plans, after Labor Day, crews will spend most of September readying a traffic crossover in the median of I-90/39 just north of Racine Street on Janesville's south end.

Starting in about October, the crossover will shift northbound traffic to two narrow diversion lanes on the south side of the Interstate, between Racine Street and the Highway 14 interchange on the city's north end.

That 4-mile swath on the Interstate's north side will be the start of the DOT's long-awaited expansion of I-90/39 from four lanes to eight through Janesville.

Well, it'll be 12 lanes actually, if you count the collector-distributor lanes that will be used to separate through traffic from motorists who are exiting or entering the Interstate at the Highway 14 and 26 interchanges.

From this fall until fall 2018, the temporary northbound lanes will skirt around the torn-up north side of I-90/39 as crews first peel away pavement, then crush it into gravel to recycle it into road base. The work of building the actual lane expansion on the north side starts in 2018.

An eight-mile section of the Interstate from Janesville south to Beloit will undergo the same process in the northbound lanes starting in spring 2018.

Next will be the same type of expansion on the Interstate's south side, except in reverse—with diversion lanes running from the southbound side to the north side.

All told, the expansion through Janesville won't be completed until midway through 2020, and interchanges on the city's north side won't be fully tied into the new lane configuration until 2022 at the latest, according to DOT timelines.

The project will dramatically change how Interstate traffic flows though the east side of Janesville, state officials said.

“Being diverted, the traffic crossovers—that will be the big difference for people during all of this,” said Steve Theisen, a DOT spokesman for the project.

Theisen said the DOT plans to maintain two lanes on either side of the Interstate at almost all times, but that won't make travel through the construction a piece of cake.

“The big thing during all of this is that you've got to know the (temporary) diversion lanes. …They've got barriers, and they're going to be narrower than a two-lane (Interstate) road," Theisen said.

"You've got to know that you need to leave room, and you're not going to be weaving from lane to lane. There's an increased potential for crashes, especially rear-end crashes.”

He said crews are contracted to stop nighttime work that will affect traffic during holiday weekends, such as the upcoming Memorial Day weekend.

During other times, he said, drivers will have to remember that Interstate travel will take longer. Traffic counts that normally number 50,000 to 60,000 a day could swell to 70,000 a day or more on busy tourist travel weekends.

Theisen said the Janesville portions of the project will be paid for in the 2017-19 biennial budget. Although the state Legislature hasn't produced its official roads budget proposal, Theisen said DOT project planners are readying the project for a bid date this summer.

Motorists who drive I-90/39 between Rock County and Madison daily will begin to see the Janesville lane tearups become part of the gantlet of construction work—and navigating the area might even become second nature to them.

A good example of what Janesville will see this fall lies just to the north.

“If you look at what people are dealing with as you get north of Edgerton, what's going on at Edgerton with the lane diversion and northbound lane work, that's the epitome of what you'll see through Janesville starting this fall,” Theisen said.

Clinton resident Roger Timler was at the DOT's meeting Thursday. He said he takes I-90/39 to his job in Madison every day, and he came out to get better acquainted with the timeline for traffic detours and diversions.

This week, at the I-90/39 lane crossover near Edgerton, Timler drove by a crash that had left a car overturned on its side. The crash trimmed the narrow, two-lane section to a one-lane road.  

“Those new (diversion) lanes at Edgerton are well-marked, and the work these crews are doing alongside—they're keeping things clean as a whistle, it seems like," he said.

"But when you hit that crossover at Edgerton, you do notice it's narrow. With the barriers in place, you're really hemmed in there tight. Boy, you feel it. You just hope that the other people driving near you are paying attention.”

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