Motorists using the Racine Avenue intersections with National Avenue and Interstate 43 will have to deal with construction and detours through November.
Waukesha County's rebuilding of the National/Racine intersection began March 30, and the state Department of Transportation's I-43/Racine project will start in the next couple of weeks.
The $6 million state project will replace the two bridges on Racine Avenue over I-43 and construct two roundabouts to replace the signalized intersections of Racine and the freeway ramps, said Jim Morrisey, project engineer for the DOT. One of the bridges needs to be raised about 1 foot to meet new standards. The old bridges date from the 1960s.
The $5.7 million county project involves widening Racine and National avenues to four lanes at the intersection and building a bridge on National Avenue over Racine Avenue. The county's four-lane project will extend south on Racine Avenue to Julius Heil Drive, where it will run seamlessly into the state's four-lane improvements for the I-43 intersection.
Al and Donna Hoefgen live in the Highland Terrace subdivision, probably the area hardest to get to and from during the construction. But they are ready for the challenge.
"You've got to roll with the punches," Al said, noting the extra lanes will help traffic flow and the roads really need repaving.
All the pain in one year
Philip Bain, project engineer for the I-43/Racine project, said fire and police, Waukesha County Sheriff's Department, residents in nearby neighborhoods, school bus companies and even garbage pickup services have been contacted for input on how local street access would be affected by the projects.
During construction of the interchange project, access will be maintained for residents and businesses north of College Avenue, Bain said.
Because of the county's project on the Racine/National intersection, only local traffic will be permitted on Racine Avenue north of College during construction.
Bain said the county and state purposely planned to do both projects in one construction season.
"It puts the pain all on one year," he said.
It also makes it easier for motorists to get used to just one set of detours, Bain said.
Roundabouts part of plans
Probably one of the most notable features of both projects will be the two Racine Avenue roundabouts for both on and off ramps of I-43.
Mark Lenter, president of Oursten Engineering, is the DOT's expert on roundabouts. He said the new roundabouts will be easier to navigate than the Moorland Road/I-43 roundabouts. Racine/I-43 has less traffic, he said, and the exits from its two roundabouts are a little straighter.
Traffic will enter the two-lane roundabouts more slowly, too. Lenter estimated traffic will enter at about 22 mph during crowded times and 30 mph if there is little traffic.
Signs will direct traffic before entering the roundabouts as to which lane to use, Lenter said.
"We work hard at getting drivers in the correct lane before getting into the roundabout," he said.
There are about 175 roundabouts in the planning or construction stages throughout the state, and Lenter said his company has been involved in a lot of them.
"For us, this is not an experiment," he said.
Meanwhile, the Hoefgens are not looking too far ahead and are appreciating the closure of Racine Avenue to through traffic.
"It's nice and quiet now," Al said.
John Schultz can be reached at (262) 446-6611.
For more information on the Racine Avenue construction projects, contact:
• I-43/Racine Avenue: Philip Bain, (262) 548-8809; email@example.com
• Racine/National avenues: Ed Hinrichs, (262) 548-7740; firstname.lastname@example.org
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