It’s true what they say about seasons in Wisconsin: There are only two – winter and road construction. But in recent years, these seasons seem to be overlapping. Leaves start to turn colors before the autumnal equinox. Tulips bloom when it’s still winter. And road construction season happens during spring, summer, fall and winter. It’s natural to mutter about single-lane traffic and dodging chartreuse-clad crews. But have we ever thought what it would be like without decent modes into (and out of) our neck of the northeastern woods of Wisconsin? Business and community leaders say it’s critical. “A good transportation system is absolutely essential for a healthy economy in any region,” said Allen Buechel, Fond du Lac County Executive. “The many businesses in the region and those who look to this region for further expansion always look at the transportation system – not only highways, but airports, railroads and in some cases, ports. These fa-
cilities move people, and even more importantly, they move commerce.” So if April showers bring May flowers, then a constant stream of “DETOUR” signs must bring future economic fuel.
Fall color tour One of the most colorful and obvious examples of construction in full bloom is the U.S. Highway 41 Corridor Project. If you’ve made the scenic tour between Fond du Lac and Green Bay lately, you’ve seen its colorful spectacle: tawny-gold cranes, pumpkin-hued “LANE CLOSED” banners and flocks of large yellow-breasted birds wearing hardhats. Following is a sampler list of some of the orange-barreled endeavors that are happening right now, recently happened or will be happening in northeast Wisconsin.
U.S. Highway 41 Corridor Project Winnebago and Brown counties
The project: The gist of this whopper – a stretch of 17 miles in Winnebago County and 14 miles in Brown County, plus the slew of interchanges and roads leading up to these interchanges – is to widen U.S. 41 from four lanes to primarily eight lanes, bringing the road up to interstate standards. In some spots, U.S. 41 could have six lanes, and in others, up to 10, depending on location, according to Eric Gwidt, construction project manager for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. The festivities involve rebuilding 13 interchanges and updating three others, adding 40 roundabouts, installing 17 traffic cameras, and expanding the Lake Butte des Morts Causeway to eight lanes. Once the region’s critical artery is brought up to speed, it can be designated as an “Interstate,” but that status is still a few years off, according to Gwidt. Timeline: Winnebago County’s share of the U.S. 41 renovation began in 2009 and is on schedule to wrap up by the end of 2013. Brown County’s part of the project didn’t start until last year, so those negotiating traffic through it will have to grin and bear it through 2016, at least. Price tag: $1.5 billion for both the Winnebago and Brown County portions of U.S. 41. Outagamie County was done sev-
eral years ago and isn’t part of the current project. Why it’s needed? The idea is to expand U.S. 41 to meet future traffic needs, Gwidt said. “The majority of this roadway was built in the 1960s and 1970s, and a lot of things are outdated in design and functionality,” he said. “They’re just not working for today’s standards.” At the time of the highway’s construction, much of the travel on U.S. 41 stemmed from an agricultural and manufacturing economy. How will the New North region benefit? The advantages of such a project are a much safer highway and the ability to get to and from places quicker and safer because of improved interchanges. “Commerce will move a lot cleaner, and industry will be able to move products a lot more efficiently,” Gwidt said. “Once we get an interstate here, that’s a huge designation – it brings a lot of commerce and attracts a lot of people. If you can build next to an interstate, that’s a huge thing.” Up-to-date details on the U.S. 41 project can be found at www.us41wisconsin.gov; on Twitter at #WisconsinUS41, on Facebook at facebook.com/WisconsinUS41 or by calling the U.S. 41 Project Hotline at 920.492.4120. NEW NORTH B2B l OCTOBER 2012 l 19