Recap of Interstate Design Neighborhood Meetings

This past Thursday evening I attended one of the public meetings hosted by WisDOT and City of Madison Transportation and Planning staff to learn more about proposed Interstate interchange design alternatives along Madison’s East Side as part of the I-39/90/94 Corridor Study. Note that the timeline for these projects is pretty long. The corridor study is in its design and environmental impact study phase for the next year and a half. Actual construction wouldn’t occur until the late 2020’s at earliest; my guess is that they’ll take place in the early 2030’s.

Here are the slides from that meeting, where you can review each of the below design alternatives (as well as those alternatives designed for other Interstate interchanges around Madison) in more detail. Learn more about the study and its timelines at the WisDOT webpage for the project. In this post I’m writing about the potential alternatives at three nearby spots that are important to residents of District 3: the potential new Milwaukee Street/I-94 interchange, the existing Badger Interchange (located in District 3), and the existing East Wash/151 Interchange.

Potential New Milwaukee Street I-94 Interchange

The Area

The City’s adopted plans already account for extending Milwaukee Street underneath I-94 to connect the future neighborhood laid out in the Northeast Neighborhoods Development Plan. Right now, Sprecher Road between Milwaukee Street and County Highway TT is the only to access that currently undeveloped area from the East District Police Station or the Fire Station #13. Regardless of an interchange with the interstate at this location, extending Milwaukee Street under I-94 to County Highway TT will provide an important access route to an area of the community that will soon begin to grow. This extension will also include important bike/ped path access to further improve neighborhood connectivity and alternatives to driving.

What an interchange could do

The City of Madison asked WisDOT in 2017 to examine the potential for this interchange to allow traffic from Milwaukee Street on and off of I-94, and vice versa. Access to the interstate would make the area north of I-94 more attractive for development and would make the planned “employment center” land use more likely to occur. Residents of the Grandview Commons and Door Creek/Sprecher East neighborhoods would have another way to drive into Madison without relying on Milwaukee Street or County Highway TT. Folks living in this area who use I-94 to the east, perhaps a trip to and back from Milwaukee, could exit at this interchange instead of needing to drive into town, through the intersection of Hwy 30 and Stoughton Rd/Hwy 51, and then travel back along Milwaukee Street or Cottage Grove Road. With these traffic pattern changes there would likely be new areas of the traffic network experiencing congestion that currently do not. 

Milwaukee Interchange Alternative 1
Milwaukee St Alternative 1: Partial Cloverleaf
Milwaukee Street Interchange Alternative 2
Milwaukee St Alternative 2: Conventional Diamond
Interchange funding

The decision about this interchange has not yet been made. Funding for new interchanges like this one are usually shared between the State of Wisconsin, which would allocate state funding through the state biennial budget process, and the City of Madison, which would need to decide where to find that local share. On the City side, that local share would likely be raised through one of two ways:

  1. Using the City’s Interchange Assessment Policy, collecting “impact fees” from property parcels in the “benefit area”. The City’s Interchange Assessment Policy section 3.26, Cost Apportionment, provides each tax parcel a “discount” on the assessment fee in a way that raises most of the interchange project funds from developments that require the new interchange.
  2. Through a new Tax Increment District over the “benefit area”, whereby the City borrows funds to pay for the project, collects property taxes at the same mil rate as everyone else as the area develops and land values rise, and pays off the project’s debt using the portion of property tax raised by the increase in property value since the project was built.

For this project to become reality, both the City and the State would need to decide to support the project and find funds that cover their share of the cost. For the City’s part, borrowing for this project is proposed in the City of Madison Transportation Department's 2024 Capital Budget request - which the Mayor will now consider including in her Executive Budget proposal, to be released in September. Read more about the Capital Budget process in my recent blog post on the topic.

Design alternatives

If this interchange is built, WisDOT is looking at two interchange designs, see screenshots above in this post. Alternative 1 is a partial cloverleaf interchange with an on-ramp to westbound I-94 that adds traffic to the interstate farther east than Alternative 2, meaning drivers would have more distance and time to get up to speed or change lanes before entering the Badger Interchange to the west. Alternative 2 is a conventional diamond interchange with on- and off-ramps where you’d expect to find them. U.S.D.O.T. highway safety engineers will compare those alternatives and indicate which they believe to be safer. As currently drawn, Alternative 1 uses a stoplight at the end of the on/off ramps, while Alternative 2 uses roundabouts.

Badger Interchange

This existing interchange is where I-39/90/94 and Highway 30 meet and connect large, high-speed highways to the north, south, east, and west. WisDOT proposes two alternatives for this one, both of which they’re calling “modernization” changes. Both require that more right-of-way land be added to the footprint of the interchange, with more required by Alternative 2 than Alternative 1. Alternative 1 uses more bridges to carry lanes than Alternative 2. I’m glad to see that the current left-hand flyaway exit from northbound I-39/90 to westbound Hwy 30 is eliminated under both alternatives. This is a known frequent crash spot as drivers make non-intuitive merge decisions to make the left-side exit. 

Important note about this interchange project: both alternatives propose to replace the existing, terrible state-owned Milwaukee Street Bridge over I-39/90, to be reconstructed to safely accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists. 

Badger Alternative 2
Badger Alternative 1
Alternative 2
Badger Alternative 2

US 151 (East Washington Ave) Interchange

WisDOT’s five alternatives for the intersection of East Washington Ave/151 and I-39/90/94 fall into three categories in my view: two alternatives offer a similar pattern to now with improved traffic flows; two alternatives separate East Wash and 151 into different, side-by-side roadways with changes to American Parkway and Nelson Rd access, and one final alternative that disconnects East Wash from 151 and re-routes East Wash slightly southward to become High Crossing Boulevard, with improved neighborhood connectivity north and south of East Wash. These last two groups of alternatives show me that WisDOT is really trying to think big about how traffic patterns could be improved in this corridor.

151 Alternative 1
151 Alternative 1 (most similar to now with improvements)
151 Alternative 3
151 Alternative 3 (separates 151 from East Wash)
151 Alternative 5
151 Alternative 5 (connects East Wash with High Crossing)

What do you think? 

  • Frank Pritzlaff is WisDOT's main contact for questions or feedback about this study, public engagement activities, and design alternatives:
  • Ben Zellers is the City of Madison's main contact for this project regarding the City's neighborhood and transportation planning goals:
  • For District 3 residents, I'm open to any and all input and feedback as well. If you're not sure where to start with your question, I'm happy to send you in the right direction. You can reach me at this email address: