Today’s Departments of Transportation (DOTs) are faced with new challenges when implementing improvement projects, particularly those directly impacting communities. Our communities support a variety of stakeholder groups that have a diverse range of concerns and desires. Project success often requires finding a balanced solution that considers all stakeholder concerns.
Mead & Hunt’s transportation team recently led a project that exemplifies this point. The City of Rice Lake is a classic Wisconsin Northwoods vacation destination located on US 53 in Barron County. US 53 provides access to destinations further north, and the interchange with WIS 48 provides one of two direct connections to the city and its many services. When the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) committed to reconstructing the interchange, stakeholder accommodation was a primary consideration. While the needs of the traveling public were central to the project, the needs of the community were equally important.
The WIS 48 interchange was originally constructed with US 53 in the early 1970s, and at that time there was no development surrounding the area. Almost 50 years later, the interchange was afflicted by aging infrastructure, substandard roadway features, and intersection safety concerns. Mead & Hunt’s solution was to reconstruct the WIS 48 ramp terminal intersections and the adjacent intersections. The solution included three single lane roundabouts and a traffic signal in succession. Roundabout intersections resolved the safety concerns and support efficient traffic movement.
Constructing roundabouts at three busy intersections during the height of tourist season in northern Wisconsin presented a significant challenge to maintenance of traffic. With many highway-oriented businesses now located at the interchange, maintaining community access was vital. In addition, as WIS 48 is the primary state route into the City of Rice Lake, construction needed to be completed in a timely manner – and preferably in one season.
The need to complete construction in a timely manner presented its own challenges as northern Wisconsin can often have a weather-shortened construction season. Additionally, concrete pavement was chosen as the most economical pavement section, which added to the duration of construction due to the cure time required. With these challenges, WisDOT was concerned that staged construction to maintain traffic and access would extend the work over two construction seasons.
The time-lapse video above represents the staged progression of eight months of construction. Community access was maintained at all times.
Mead & Hunt’s project team worked with WisDOT to develop innovative solutions and strategies for maintenance of traffic to accommodate stakeholder needs, including:
- Keeping the interchange open to minimize response time for emergency services. Lakeview Medical Center is adjacent to the interchange and is a community-based hospital serving the region. Access was maintained through staged construction with temporarily-widened roadways. An innovative feature temporarily rerouted an exit ramp onto a local street through an agreement with the city.
- Oversized and overweight (OSOW) trucks use US 53 and WIS 48 to access destinations in Rice Lake and beyond. Trucks as long as 110 feet routinely need to navigate the intersections at the ramp terminals. The roundabout intersections were designed and constructed to accommodate the movement of multiple OSOW vehicles using the interchange.
- Dozens of businesses at the WIS 48 interchange depend on access for locals and tourists to use services. Maintaining access kept businesses open for the duration of construction despite the pandemic.
- The interchange represented a gap in the multimodal networks that serve the community. The completed project provides connectivity for all modes of travel.
The interchange improvements provide Rice Lake residents and regional travelers with long-term, sustainable infrastructure. Short-term construction related impacts were kept to a minimum while maintaining vital community access. The success of this project rested on considering the diverse needs of all stakeholders affected by the infrastructure. Through working with all stakeholders, Mead & Hunt was able to find a holistic solution that will serve the needs of the community for years to come.