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DOT unveils proposal for two roundabouts at Hwy. 35 interchange with Hanley Road

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation presented its plans for an interchange between Hwy. 35 and Hanley Road to a small group of interested local officials and citizens Nov. 13 at the St. Croix County Government Center.

The interchange is unique in that it will feature two roundabout intersections, one on each side of Hwy. 35 where the on and off ramps will intersect with Hanley Road. It is scheduled for construction in 2005.

Mark Johnson, the DOT's roundabout specialist, said news of a planned roundabout usually is greeted by protest from some people in communities where they are proposed. People opposed to the roundabout usually have had a bad experience on an older traffic circle of the sort found in New Jersey and some European countries, he said.

Adding some humor to his PowerPoint presentation, Johnson showed a clip from the Chevy Chase movie "European Vacation," where a family is caught on a traffic circle until into the night.

"Traffic circles are bad news," Johnson said.

He said roundabouts are distinctively different from traffic circles in their design, however.

The smaller roundabouts require motorists to go slower than they would on a traffic circle, he said. Also, motorists entering the roundabout must yield to vehicles already on it, whereas the vehicles entering a traffic circle are traveling faster and have the right-of-way.

Johnson said a recent university study found a 90 percent reduction in serious accidents at 24 signalized intersections in the United States that were converted to roundabouts. He said there was a 50 percent reduction in property damage that occurred in traffic accidents at the intersections.

The most expensive feature of the planned interchange will be a four-lane Hanley Road bridge spanning Hwy. 35. The estimated construction cost of the entire project is $5.4 million.

The purpose of the interchange is to improve safety and traffic movement at what is now an at-grade intersection.

Randy Hanson

Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.

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