Over the last two years, construction work to expand Interstate 90/39 to eight lanes through Janesville has been—in a word—noticeable.
But starting this month, the state Department of Transportation will kick off a slew of projects that will dramatically transform a 3-mile stretch of the Interstate on the city’s north end over the next two years.
By April, motorists could see massive earth-moving in the area around the Highway 14 and Highway 26 interchanges.
The DOT says crews over the next four months will rework the Interstate’s northbound lanes to raise their height by several feet.
The work is being done to match the bridge elevations at the highways 14 and 26 interchanges, which are crammed together within a mile of each other and are slated for reconfiguration.
Highway 26 will become a “diverging diamond” interchange identical to the one recently built at the Avalon Road interchange on the city’s south end. The Highway 14 interchange will be reworked into a diamond interchange.
Both interchanges are along a stretch where the DOT needs to accommodate double the traffic lanes both on the road and on bridges spanning Kennedy Road and the Wisconsin & Southern Railroad line.
Between Highway 26 and Highway 14, the DOT plans to extend Ryan Road under the Interstate to add a link to Deerfield Drive for local traffic.
DOT spokesman Emmanuel Yartey said all the earth-moving will make it look like crews are building hills on the northbound side of the Interstate.
Similar earth-moving is slated for the southbound side of the same stretch, probably by late this year or early next year, he said.
But this spring and summer, the project will require a diversion of traffic to the south lanes from the Mount Zion Avenue overpass to just north of Kennedy Road. Yartey said crews this month will begin striping the south lanes for “bi-directional” traffic divided by concrete barriers.
The crossover will look similar to traffic patterns on sections the DOT began expanding last year between Beloit and Janesville.
The agency’s project timeline shows the bulk of earth-moving work will occur between May and June, but staging for it could begin sometime in April.
“It’s all weather dependent,” Yartey said.
Once crews build up the elevation near the north-end interchanges, they will begin lane expansions and interchange reconfigurations.
That stretch on Janesville’s north end is one of the most complex, congested segments of the 45-mile stretch of I-90/39 between the state line and Madison, which is being reworked as part of the massive $1 billion expansion project.
About 50,000 vehicles a day travel the stretch of I-90/39 between highways 14 and 26, and about 30,000 vehicles a day come on and off the interchanges at 14 and 26, according to DOT traffic counts.
The segments of highways 26 and 14 adjacent to the Interstate carry a combined traffic load of 50,000 vehicles a day, the DOT estimates.
Yartey said the DOT plans only one ramp closure at the highways 14 and 26 interchanges this spring and summer: the Highway 26 on-ramp to northbound I-90/39.
The department will have electronic signs posted on the Interstate on Janesville’s south side and along Highway 26 that will give motorists an early warning about project work, temporary single lane closures and the planned shutdown of the northbound Highway 26 ramp.
The three-year project to raise the Interstate and reconfigure the two interchanges will never require the closure of ramps at both Highway 26 and Highway 14, Yartey said.