Downtown Madison’s ‘hairball’ intersection redesign underway

MADISON, Wis. — A downtown intersection known for being chaotic is getting reconstructed in the hopes of making it safer.

The changes to the “hairball” intersection off John Nolen Drive where four roads, a bike path, and a train crossing all meet, are being made by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and the City of Madison.

“A lot of people use this area and so we also recognize that it can be disruptive,” said City Engineering Public Information Officer Hannah Mohelnitzky. “We appreciate all the patience as we try to get this project done and done correctly.”

The redesign will include new left-turn lanes on John Nolen Drive and S. Blair Street — where none exist currently — new medians, new signals and updated railroad gates.

City officials said over the years the lack of left-turn lanes has led to traffic backups and even crashes. From 2011 to 2015, there were 92 total reported crashes.

The construction plan also means nearby bike shop Machinery Row will be losing one of its driveways, which Mohelnitzky said has previously led to cars making unexpected turns.

The project, however, is not limited to safety-driven improvements. There are also plans to address aging infrastructure on Blair Street. with pavement replacement.

Major construction will begin the first week of April and will be completed this fall.

Drivers can expect a number of changes in the area during construction, primarily in the form of lane reductions in the intersection and on Blair Street. Blair Street will soon close entirely except for one southbound lane during the morning rush hour, Mohelnitzky said.

Motorists should use the outer loop of streets around the Capitol and West Washington Avenue to get from East Washington Avenue back to John Nolen Drive; eastbound drivers can use a signed detour along Broom, West Wilson and Hamilton streets and the outer loop of the Capitol or take John Nolen Drive to Williamson Street to Blount Street.

A bike detour will send cyclists on the Capital City Trail down Williamson Street to Blount Street.