Hixson lobbies for Milton I-90 access
MILTON Traffic on Milton’s east side might be headed out the back door with the Highway 26 bypass in 2014, but one state official is hatching a plan aimed at bringing motorists and commerce off Interstate 90/39 and into Milton via County M.
The idea is still in its infancy, but Rep. Hixson, D-Whitewater, said last week he’s interested the idea of putting an interchange at the intersection of I-90/39 and County M, which is the western extension of West Madison Avenue in Milton.
With the Highway 26 bypass in 2014 set to divert traffic away from the city’s east side, Hixson said he’d been contacted by “a few people in Milton” concerned about the future of the city’s businesses.
Hixson would not specify who contacted him, but he said their message was clear: “They said, ‘We need an Interstate exit.’ And my feeling is they’re probably right.”
Hixson said an interchange would give commuters and travelers a more direct connection between Milton, Janesville and Madison. Milton sits two miles east of an eight-mile stretch of I-90/39 between Janesville and Newville that has no exits.
“There definitely needs to be an exit somewhere in the middle,” Hixson said. “It would be an economic development tool for Milton and would provide the city much easier access, instead of people having to drive north to Newville or south to Janesville,” Hixson said.
A plan for a Milton interchange would be tied to a larger, $1 billion proposal to expand to six lanes I-90/39 between Madison and the Illinois/Wisconsin state line. Work on that project could start in 2015, officials have said.
“It would most definitely work best in tandem with (the proposed expansion) because all of the construction could be done at that time. A few of the overpasses along that route would have to be worked on,” Hixson said.
In recent weeks, local and state officials have trumpeted developments in the proposed Interstate expansion, but the plan has not been approved. The state Transportation Projects Commission, the committee that would decide the plan’s fate, has not met in a number of years, officials have said.
Hixson said his staff had planned to meet this week with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, but he said there have been no formal talks about the possible Milton interchange. There are no estimates on what the interchange could cost, he said.
Still, Hixson recently sent letters to local stakeholders and Milton city officials about the interchange concept. He said he hopes for input.
“The sooner that we really know how the community feels, then we can have more serious conversations about moving this along,” he said.
City Administrator Todd Schmidt did not return calls to the Gazette seeking comment on Hixson’s proposal, but he submitted a prepared statement which said the city is “interested in the concept,” and that “the city of Milton comprehensive plan does support growth west that would work well with an interchange at County M and I-39/90.”
Milton Mayor Tom Chesmore told the Gazette city officials had not initiated talk about a Milton interchange, and he said he’s unaware of any private interest in a Milton interchange.
He said he was “surprised” to learn about the interchange idea, but he has told Hixson’s staff he’d support it because it could spur business and industrial development and funnel commerce into the city.
Rock County Director of Public Works Ben Coopman and Rock County Engineer Rich Cannon said the county has not been in touch with Hixson about the Milton interchange idea, but they said the idea would require an Interstate justification report—a study they said could be paid for by either a municipality or a private entity.
The study would be reviewed by the state Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration and would be subject to approval based on impact the interchange would have on flow of traffic, land use and the environment.
Chesmore said he’s interested in learning more about the interchange concept, but for now, he’s keeping his enthusiasm bridled.
“Would I like to see it? Yeah.
“Am I going to get real excited about it? Not yet.”