State provides interstate construction update

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Austin Montgomery/Beloit Daily News AECOM Consultant Scott Severson (middle) points and explains portions of the I-39/90 and I-43/Wisconsin 81 interchange project at an informational open house hosted Tuesday at Home2Suites in Beloit. Severson helped design the project after being contracted by Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

BELOIT - Around 100 Beloit area residents attended a Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WDOT) open house over the ongoing Interstate 39/90 and Interstate 43 reconstruction.

The meeting comes after construction kicked off again in March for the year, with work on the south segment near Beloit focusing on I-90 from Cranston Road to the Illinois state line and along I-43 at Hart Road. Construction on I-43 has reduced the interstate to one lane in each direction and has been shifted onto the south side of the interstate. On I-90, traffic remains at two lanes. On I-43, work continues on the south side of the interstate, while I-90 is currently undergoing work on the north side of the interstate. Lane shifts are expected for both interstates in July or August, according to Project Communications Manager Steven Theisen, and work will continue through November.

"It's here, it's happening. We are glad to see the work. Certainly there will be some frustrations and patience required from everyone involved, but once we have the finished product in 2021 it's going to be worth it," Theisen said.

Traffic will expand to six lanes by 2021 when transportation officials estimate the final expansion will be complete. Lane expansions from Madison to Edgerton are expected to be completed this year, with the Janesville segment estimated to wrap up in 2020.

Construction comes as preparation work starts for the segment of I-43 and Milwaukee Road interchange, set to start next year. Short-term and long-term closures are expected in 2020 for the interchange, and business leaders are working together to stay informed on the progress. Once the interchange work is complete, interstate travelers will exit at Hart Road to access Milwaukee Road businesses.

Rolling closures at Milwaukee Road and I-43 could take place this year between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., and would not be long term.

Businesses along the corridor have formed the I-90 Group, a collective of owners that have come together to work in conjunction with transportation and city officials to reduce any harm construction could bring.

I-90 Group Representative Brad Lawver, general manager of Cornellier Superstore, said he was pleased with the communication between transportation officials and the support from Beloit city staff, along with Visit Beloit and the Greater Beloit Chamber of Commerce.

"There's good things in numbers, so if we all come at this together, it should go pretty well," Lawver said. "Right now, I feel pretty good about it. Change is good. Overall, the project is going to be good for everyone, it's just getting to that end point. It's going to be hard, it won't be easy but we think it'll be a good thing."

Lawver said business owners were hesitant about the construction and its potential impact on sales, but on Tuesday he said he was optimistic if signs were placed correctly, there might not be a drastic impact on business as originally thought.

"We have to stay positive, because (if one is negative) then you give that aura off to people and you don't want that," Lawver said. "Everyone is going to be okay. We're accepting of it, and you have to be. The communication has helped that and they have been really responsive to our concerns and they are very helpful."

Lawver said the I-90 Group would meet again next month, and Theisen noted transportation officials would meet with Beloit city staff to go over temporary sign requirements and brief officials on construction next week. The Beloit City Council is expected to extend its temporary business sign ordinance during the I-43/Milwaukee Road interchange work to boost visibility.

Information on the project is available at projects.511wi.gov/i-39-90 or on Facebook at the Wisconsin I-39/90 Project page.

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