Highway 26 Corridor Study - Purpose and Schedule

Highway 26 Corridor Study

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Why is the Highway 26 study being done?
  • Highway 26 is a Route of Statewide Importance - It links major Wisconsin communities, including the cities of Milton, Jefferson and Watertown to the Fox River Valley, Chicago and other points south of Wisconsin Located midway between the cities of Madison and Milwaukee Identified as a connector route on the Corridors 2020 Plan.
  • Local Interest in Study - The study serves local economic and transportation needs. The cities of Jefferson and Watertown have requested bypass studies. The city of Milton's comprehensive plan recognizes the need for studying future expansion and bypass alternatives.
  • Growing Traffic - Traffic is increasing. Truck traffic is relatively high. Congestion on narrow roadways in older, historic areas is problematic. The current or projected traffic exceeds the threshold for consideration of a four-lane highway.
  • Preserving a Transportation Corridor - Future development may preclude reasonable bypass options. Access limits are needed for a safe highway. The study will coordinate land use planning and transportation planning.

Highway 26 Corridor Study Schedule

Study initiated February 1999
Public information meetings on preliminary alternatives June 9, 14, 21 1999
Public information meetings on detailed study alternatives January 10, 11, 13 2000
Draft Environmental Impact Statement completed May 2000
Public hearings June 2000
Transportation Projects Commission meets Summer 2000
Public information meetings on preferred alternatives 2001
Final Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision completed 2001
Earliest possible construction start 2008

If the Transportation Projects Commission considers and accepts any projects in 2000, it is anticipated that construction would not occur until at least 2008, with right of way acquisition typically beginning no sooner than 2005. Sections of Highway 26 would likely be staged for improvement over a period of time.

Historic preservation an important consideration

The National Preservation Act of 1966 requires that the Highway 26 Study take into account the impact of a federally-funded project on historical, architectural, cultural and archeological resources important to our heritage. To help ensure that this is done for the Highway 26 Study, archaeologists and historians are gathering information and preparing reports on important archaeological and architectural resources that could be affected by one of the alternatives being considered.

Persons with a concern for or knowledge about historical buildings and structures and archaeological sites are encouraged to attend one of the January public information meetings or provide comments to WisDOT or their consulting firm, Earth Tech. The Milton House is one of the premier historic properties in Wisconsin, having received National Historic Landmark status. The Highway 26 Study will not consider any alternative solutions for study that would directly affect the Milton House building.

Other projects along the Highway 26 corridor

Before the Highway 26 corridor study began in February 1999, a number of projects were already completed or planned for this section of Highway 26 due to a combination of congestion and safety problems. These projects include: the Fort Atkinson bypass completed in 1995; two lanes added between the cities of Janesville and Milton last summer; two lanes will be added in the Johnson Creek area from Highway Y to Baneck Lane and the Interstate 94 interchange will be improved in 2001 and 2002; and a four-lane street will be built from Airport Road on the south side of the city of Watertown to Highway 19 (Main Street) in central Watertown.

Study committees

For planning purposes, the overall project has been divided into three study area segments, each having its own Study Committee to inform potentially affected communities and the public about the study process, to gather information about local needs and to help select the best solution. Segment 1, the South Segment, is the area between IH 90 at Janesville to Port Atkinson. Segment 2, the Central Segment, is the area from Port Atkinson to IH 94 at Johnson Creek. Segment 3, the North Segment, is from IH 94 to STH 60 (East) north of Watertown.

Study Committees are comprised of members from communities likely to be impacted by altematives. Each committee contains a mix of elected officials, technical staff, business and other representatives.  The committees were formed in June 1999.  They serve an advisory role.  The authority for the final selection of each alternative rests in the chain of command of the Department of Transportation.

A list of members of each segment's study committee can be found at the bottom of each map page.

Environmental Impact Statement

In compliance with state and federal laws, an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) will be prepared for the proposed improvements of STH 26. The EIS will assess the environmental impacts of alternatives, including: (1) no-build, (2) improvements along the existing rural corridor, with possible relocated alignments along portions of the route, and (3) bypass comdors around the cities of Milton, Jefferson, and Watertown. At its conclusion, the EIS will recommend preferred alternatives.  The draft EIS due in May 2000 may include recommendations of specific preferred alternatives.

Access Management

Planning the number of and controlling the location of intersecting roads and driveways is an important consideration of this corridor study. The alternatives have been developed with the following assumptions about future access to STH 26. They assume that for bypasses, access would only be permitted at interchanges. The majority of the side roads would be connected over or under the bypass with a bridge. In a few cases, side roads may be considered for closure. In the areas on the existing roadway alignment, access would be permitted at a few side roads, or at-grade crossings. A minimal number of pnvate crossings for farming purposes only would also be allowed.

Property acquisition

Wisconsin law defines how the Department acquires property necessary for improvement projects. The pamphlet "The Rights of Landowners Under Wisconsin Eminent Domain Law" explains this procedure, and is available today.

This goJefferson.com Web presentation of these public documents is Copyright 2004 Syndesis Corporation.