I-94 interchange planning puts annexation on hold
The public got a look at concept plans for improvements to the I-94 interchanges at Carmichael Road and Hwy. 12 during a July 1 informational meeting at the St. Croix County Government Center.
While the view of possible designs for the freeway exchanges was interesting, the bigger news was the effect the reconstruction of the Carmichael interchange could have on Walmart’s plans to build a new store there.
Both options presented by SRF Consulting Group, the engineering firm contracted by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to do the planning, showed a new frontage road bisecting the 29-acre property on the northeast side of the interchange that is the proposed site of the Walmart Superstore.
Dennis Darnold, Hudson’s community development director, said privately following a presentation on the options that the city has put on hold a petition to annex the proposed Walmart site. City officials will wait to see what the state’s plans are for the Carmichael interchange before making a decision on the proposed annexation, he said.
One of the options, named Two Loops with Modified Frontage Roads, also showed new freeway ramps on the 29 acres owned by Double Play Investments LLC.
Jim Anderson, a partner in Double Play Investments, was one of about 20 people who attended the meeting, and had questions for SRF and WisDOT representatives in attendance.
One of the handouts available to attendees was a WisDOT brochure titled “The Rights of Landowners Under Wisconsin Eminent Domain Law.”
Tom Beekman, WisDOT’s engineering chief for the Northwest Region, said he doesn’t expect the interchanges to be rebuilt until 2025 or 2026, at the earliest.
A project plan needs to be decided upon in order to bring it to the state Legislature for funding, Beekman said.
Josh Maus, a senior associate with SRF Consulting Group, gave the PowerPoint presentation on the concept plans under consideration.
He said a project management team of WisDOT staff and consulting engineers had arrived at the options after meeting seven times between the middle of 2012 and last month.
The plans were developed in consultation with a local advisory committee comprised of representatives from the city of Hudson, town of Hudson and St. Croix County.
Maus said the project management team started with seven concept plans for the Carmichael interchange and narrowed them down to two.
Just one plan for the Hwy. 12 interchange remained following the analysis, which included computer traffic modeling.
The improvements are needed, Maus said, because traffic through the interchanges and adjacent intersections is expected to increase by 40 to 80 percent in the next 20 years.
In 2012, the average daily traffic count on I-94 at Carmichael Road was 65,400, Maus reported. The count is expected to grow to 89,600 by 2025, and 116,500 by 2035.
The average daily count on Carmichael Road south of the freeway in 2012 was 36,000. It is expected to increase to 50,400 by 2035.
On the north side of I-94 (and north of Coulee Road), the average daily count was 15,500 in 2012. Traffic there is projected to increase to 23,600 vehicles per day by 2035.
In response to questions from the audience, Maus said the projections were based on land use designations in the city of Hudson’s Comprehensive Plan. They didn’t take into account specific developments such as a large big-box store or school, he said.
Maus said that without improvements to the Carmichael Road interchange congestion would get bad enough to create traffic backups in adjacent intersections and onto I-94.
“By the year 2035, this is going to be a mess if you retain the existing infrastructure,” commented Todd Polum, a principal with SRF Consulting.
The concept plan titled Two Loops with Modified Frontage Roads would add looping exit ramps for east and westbound freeway traffic at Carmichael Road, which would eliminate vehicles having to make a left turn to go north or south on Carmichael.
Frontage Road on the north side of I-94 would be re-routed to a new intersection on Carmichael Road, on the north side of the Hudson Golf Club.
The second option is for a diverging diamond interchange that would have north- and southbound Carmichael Road traffic change sides of the road over the I-94 bridge, allowing free left turns onto the freeway.
It would be the first diverging diamond interchange in Wisconsin, and one of just over two dozen in the nation. Minnesota has three of the interchanges, and construction of a fourth is about to begin.
A diverging diamond interchange on 34th Avenue at I-494, near International Airport and the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., opened last fall.
“I talked to the city traffic engineer yesterday morning and he’s happy with it,” Maus reported.
The diverging diamond interchange plan also calls for a new city street on what is currently Hudson Golf Club property. The new street would connect to Ward Avenue and run behind the Target and Family Fresh Market stores.
The concept plan for Hwy. 12, where heavy truck traffic is the main concern, is to add two looping exit ramps to eliminate the need for left turns.