State poised to begin work on roundabout at deadly Hwy. 33 intersection

Traffic on Town of Saukville stretch will be detoured beginning July 5
By 
KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Ozaukee Press staff

Traffic patterns are about to change in the Town of Saukville as the Department of Transportation begins work to create a roundabout at the intersection of highways 33 and I — a project expedited by the state due to the number of serious and fatal crashes at the crossing.

Preconstruction work in the area will begin in late June, but beginning July 5 traffic will be detoured until construction is completed this fall.

East-west traffic along Highway 33 will be routed along highways Y, NN and 60, then along I-43, while north-south traffic on Highway I will be directed to use highways O and 60.

That’s bound to impact businesses, particularly those in Saukville’s industrial and business parks, and commuters, Saukville Village President Barb Dickmann said.

“A large part of our traffic (on Highway 33) during the day is people coming from the West Bend area and hopping onto I-43,” she said. “That will probably be reduced.”

Dickmann said she hasn’t heard from any businesses concerned about potential traffic issues, but the fact that the detours are relatively close is a benefit.

“I’m sure if anyone does reach out, we will help them work it out,” she said. “But people can be very resourceful when they need to be.”

Most drivers will figure out the quickest alternative to their normal routes and incorporate them into their driving routines, Dickmann said.

“I think this will be one of those things we work through as time goes on,” she said.

Michael Pyritz, a spokesman for the Department of Transportation, said the agency is working with local businesses to ensure they are aware of what’s happening and when.

They are also coordinating with emergency services to ensure there is access for law enforcement, fire and ambulance, he said.

Even before construction gets going, motorists will see preparation work starting up in June, Pyritz said.

“They’ll see the orange barrels, they’ll see crews working on the sides of the road,” he said.

Pyritz said the DOT decided to close the roads during construction to ensure the work is done as quickly as possible.

“If we were to try to build it under traffic, it would take an exceptionally long time,” he said, and there would still be a number of road closures during construction.

Even with the closure, he said, “It’s still a tight timeline.”

He noted that it typically takes seven to 10 days for people to become accustomed to detours.

“It really settles in fairly quickly,” he said, adding that the detours will only take people five to six miles out of the way.

Pyritz said many construction details will be worked out in the next week or so when the state and its contractors hold a pre-construction meeting.

But the basics, he said, are in place.

The roundabout will require installation of a median strip in each direction — on the west side, it will begin just west of Cold Springs Lane, on the south just past the second driveway leading to the crossing and on the north side just past Cold Springs Road.

There’s no easily identifiable landmark on the east side, he noted, but it will be about the same distance as in the other directions.

The land purchases and easements needed for the project have been acquired, Pyritz said, adding there was a minimal amount of property acquisition required, most of it on the southwest side of the crossing.

“There was quite a bit of right of way existing there,” he said.

Pyritz said the project “has been a number of years in the making and is something that’s strongly supported.”

The project was sparked by safety concerns after a series of serious, sometimes fatal, accidents in recent years.

There were three fatalities at the intersection from 2016 to 2019, all involving motorcycles.

And a DOT study showed there were 24 crashes at the crossing from January 2014 through September 2020, with 74% of the accidents resulting in injuries or death.

Studies showed 71% of the crashes were high-speed angle accidents and 63% were failure-to-yield crashes in which vehicles on Highway I stopped for the stop sign but didn’t wait for oncoming traffic before proceeding into the intersection.

While the intersection is fairly open, Pyritz said there are some issues with the sightlines, including the fact that drivers can find their vision affected by the sunrises and sunsets. The intersection is also located in a hollow, which means ground fog can be an issue.

And because there isn’t much development in the area, it can be difficult for motorists to judge speed and distances, he said.

The single-lane roundabout was selected as the preferred alternative to deal with the issues, officials said.

The DOT is expected to post details about the construction project at projects.511wi.gov/wis33-roundabout/.

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