Following six months of analyzing 23.6 miles of Interstate 41 between Appleton and De Pere, WisDOT has concluded that a “capacity expansion project” would improve safety, mobility, and pavement condition at the corridor.
In August of 2018, former Governor Scott Walker asked the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to study Interstate 41 between WIS 96 (Wisconsin Avenue in Appleton) and Brown County Road F (Scheuring Road in De Pere).
Information gathered included traffic operations and safety data.
Fox Valley drivers that Local 5 spoke to supported the expansion project.
“Absolutely, I do think it is a good idea,” said Ryan Kortz of Little Chute, who works at Evergreen Power close to the highway. “You always hear of all the accidents that happen here. I think it (would be) beneficial, and plus for our business, more traffic flow… would definitely help us out.”
“I think it’s a great idea,” said Jennifer Fredriksen of Neenah. “We have patients late for clinic every day because of all the accidents. There’s accidents almost every day. In fact, yesterday I sat in traffic for 25 minutes in the morning because of accidents.”
Over the course of the study, communities submitted their own resolutions and recommendations to WisDOT for consideration. You may remember when Outagamie County discussed lowering the speed limit.
Some local leaders also voiced their support for expansion to certain portions of the interstate.
However, the conclusion of WisDOT’s six-month evaluation does not mean changes are inevitable for I-41.
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation was responsible for gathering and evaluating all collected data on the oft-discussed corridor, but all final conclusions and recommendations resulting from the study get turned over for consideration to Wisconsin’s Transportation Projects Commission (TPC), a committee that’s only gathered when there’s a need for additional expansion-type projects.
According to Kristin McHugh, Public Affairs Director for WisDOT, to qualify as a major highway expansion project, the TPC must approve the entire corridor, or portions of the corridor, for environmental study as a potential Major Highway Project.
Pending those study results, the TPC will recommend a course of action for the state legislature to consider.
It’s at that point funding considerations are determined, which would likely be a mix of state and federal funds.
According to Jeff Gust, Director of the Bureau of State Highway Programs, there’s no official timeline for the TPC to reconvene, it’s been years since the last meeting, but he believes Governor Evers, the leader of the commission, could gather the committee by this fall.
The conclusion of WisDOT’s evaluation is a major step for the future of I-41 between the Fox Valley and the Green Bay area, but attention now turns to when Wisconsin’s Transportation Projects Commission will gather again.
Gust says there is a chance the project could get approved to move forward this fall.
It’s important to note that WisDOT Northeast Region is also evaluating low-cost, non-capacity expansion opportunities that would improve safety and operations.
The regional office expects to have information on that study in the fall of 2019.