Public input sought by DOT to use beltline shoulder as part-time lane during rush hour
MADISON, Wis. — The Wisconsin Department of Transportation is seeking public input on plans to implement a dynamic part-time shoulder on the beltline as a means to reduce traffic during peak travel times.
“We’re excited about the possibility of utilizing something that other states have successfully used and implemented to try to alleviate recurring congestion like this,” said Brandon Lamers, the major studies supervisor for the southwest region of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.
A handful of people showed up to a public meeting Wednesday to voice their concerns over the plans and ask questions.
The #WisconsinDOT is looking at some possible changes to the Beltline in #Madison. One is to address repaving and drainage issues, the other to add a dynamic part-time shoulder use lane. What are your thoughts on this? pic.twitter.com/8ZJTFAdcj5
— Jamie Perez (@JamiePerezTV) July 24, 2019
While some were in support of the plan, eager to learn more, others were not in favor. Susan DeVos, a Madison resident, said she would like to see money spent on providing more high-speed public transportation and railway systems. DeVos added, “There’s something called induced demand, in which people adapt and things end up being as congested and crowded in maybe five years as they were when you spend $1 billion or 250 million or whatever to be making the road.”
Lamers said the beltline shoulder plans are one part of the equation. The other involves resurfacing the roads and making improvements to drainage systems.
Lamers said it is possible the plans to use the beltline shoulder may not even happen.
However, if the plans were to go through, they could be done in 2021. Lamers explained how it would work.
“You have your three general purpose lanes. Your outside shoulder would remain as is, and then you would have that median shoulder available for use. It would be controlled, and the drivers would know because there’s a green arrow and signage that says, ‘Shoulder permitted on green arrow only.’ During the parts of the day where volumes aren’t heavy enough, we want to retain this as a median shoulder and provide that for disabled vehicles and things like that. But then, when volumes are heavier, that’s when we would like to open that up for traffic to use.”
Lamers added that during non-rush hours, that section of the beltline would be used only as a shoulder.
Plans also involve dynamic overhead messaging displayed to indicate when drivers could use the lane and a message stating if there is an accident ahead.
Lamers said if plans are approved, the existing general purpose lanes would shrink from 12 feet to 11 feet and the shoulder and median barrier wall would be rebuilt to allow for the new part-time lane. Special actions would be taken in the case of unplanned emergencies, weather, power outages and special events.
Lamers said the main questions he has been asked involve what to do in the case of an accident or a car breakdown and when emergency vehicles need to bypass traffic.
Lamers said, “Camera detection, as well as other types of vehicle detection, are things we would look at utilizing to try to let our traffic management center in Milwaukee know if there’s an incident ahead or if there’s a disabled video ahead so these signs will be activated ahead of time to let them know to not come upon that.”
Lamers said people who monitor traffic cameras in Milwaukee currently would check for accidents or would wait for notification from first-responder agencies to know when to change the signage so people know not to use the shoulder as a lane. The signage and cameras would be updated as needed in real time.
The part-time lane is something that is currently used in several states. Lamers said while he and his team will continue to refine plans to address the public’s concerns, he believes this is a safe way to reduce traffic during rush hour.
For more information on plans, visit madisonbeltline.dot.wi.gov.
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