The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) Southwest Region is initiating the study.
Local officials from Vernon County,
the cities of Viroqua and Westby, the towns of Christiana, Coon,
Franklin, Jefferson and Viroqua, along with property owners and other
interested stakeholders are also contributing to the study.
The study is being conducted to evaluate options to preserve and
officially map right of way for a four-lane bypass of Viroqua and
Westby as well as develop a long-term vision for the corridor with the
goal of officially designating, mapping, and preserving it as an
As an expressway, the number of at-grade intersections and
direct access to US 14/61 would be limited to safely balance the
access and mobility needs of the area.
The development of the study is
occurring now to ensure long-term improvement options are not
precluded as land uses and other conditions change along the corridor
As part of the study, separate Environmental Assessments (EA) of
the proposed four-lane expressway bypasses are being conducted in
accordance with federal and state requirements.
In 2002, WisDOT completed an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)
for the US 14/61 corridor near the cities of Viroqua and Westby. The
Preferred Alternative included an eastern two-lane bypass of Viroqua,
expansion of US 14/61 to four lanes between the two cities, and a
western two-lane bypass of Westby.
Since the completion of the EIS in 2002, a number of issues have
emerged. This has led WisDOT to conclude that certain elements of the
bypass study needs to be updated, including the need to preserve and
officially map right of way required for a four-lane facility as well
as possible expressway improvements at the intersections.
WisDOT’s most recent long-range highway plan, Connections 2030, the US
14/61 corridor is designated as a “Connector” highway, including the
new bypass alignments. The “Connector” system is a network of high
quality routes that directly link significant economic and tourism
Third, not only is US 14/61 part of the “Connector” system,
it is also a critical parallel reliever route to the Interstate.
Because of these recent issues/findings, WisDOT has initiated an
update of the previous study to preserve and officially map right of
way for a four-lane bypass corridor as well as consider expressway
The preservation study will also revise the traffic
forecasts with current data to better refine the construction
timeline, as well as the type and function of four-lane bypasses that
would best serve the transportation needs of the future.
It is important to note that the update of the bypasses would not
change the physical alignment or location of the bypasses as defined
by the original EIS.
After the study and environmental review process is complete,
traffic and safety assessments will be conducted periodically to help
determine when the final step, construction of the bypasses, is
It is possible that two-lane bypasses would be constructed
first, within the preserved right of way of the four-lane bypasses.
Before construction of the bypasses, WisDOT and the Federal Highway
Administration (FHWA) will re-evaluate the EIS and conduct additional
environmental review as required to account for any existing
conditions that change between now and then.
The exact timing of construction is difficult to predict. It will
depend on future traffic and safety along the existing US 14/61 route,
state funding priorities, and where this project is prioritized among
the state's other highway projects.
Given the state's existing
identified improvement needs, anticipated priorities, and findings of
this study, construction of four-lane bypasses would be unlikely until
sometime after 2030.
Construction could be a long time from now and
conditions will change. Won't the
environmental impacts need to be reassessed?
Because of the anticipated time lag between the EA and
construction, the environmental document will need to be reevaluated
in coordination with federal, state, and local agencies.
What is the difference between an
expressway and a freeway?
Expressway improvements are being planned and will be part of the
preservation study for the Viroqua and Westby bypasses. The four-lane
section of the corridor between Viroqua and Westby has already been
built to expressway standards.
Expressways are multi-lane roadways with a median to separate
traffic. The posted speed limit is usually 55 to 65 mph, although it
may be posted lower in/near urban areas.
Expressways have some
at-grade intersections with public roads and driveways, allowing
vehicles to get directly on/off/across the main highway. They may also
include interchanges and grade separations (side roads that go under
or over the main road but do not access it directly).
Freeways also have two or more lanes in each direction separated by
a median and a 55 to 65 mph posted speed limit.
freeways have no at-grade access of any kind. All crossroads are
separated by grade (they go over or under the freeway). They provide
access on/off the highway only at interchanges, better known as
How would preserving and officially
mapping right of way affect my property and any improvements that I
Unlike property acquisition, official mapping does not change the
immediate ownership of the land and/or involve purchase of property.
In most cases, property owners would be allowed to use their property
just as they are today. Property owners can then be confident that
expensive new investments to homes and businesses will not be
negatively impacted by the bypasses.
Ultimately, official mapping
greatly increases the likelihood that the land needed for the future
improvement would remain available at a reasonable cost, saving
taxpayer money, and avoid moving the proposed roadway to a less
How is this study related to the recent
four-lane US 14/61 expansion project between Viroqua and Westby?
WisDOT recently completed an expansion of US 14/61 from two to four
lanes between Viroqua and Westby. This improvement was needed to
address immediate safety, capacity, and operational needs along the
The Viroqua and Westby bypasses were not included
in this recent project because the current traffic forecasts, land
use, development, and community plans have not demonstrated an
immediate need for their construction.
How will truck traffic from WIS 27 through
Westby by addressed?
The construction of a US 14/61 bypass would relieve traffic
congestion in downtown Westby. Truck traffic from US 14/61 would be
diverted from downtown to the new bypass, which would reduce noise
from trucks and increase safety for those in the downtown area.
there would not be a WIS 27 bypass of Westby, the overall truck
traffic in downtown Westby would be reduced as a result of the
proposed US 14/61 bypass.
Will a multi-use path also be preserved along
the bypass corridors?
A multi-use path along the bypass corridors themselves would not be
included in the bypass reevaluation process. The recently agreed upon
multi-use path between the communities would be constructed as planned
and would serve multi-modal commuter trips between the two cities.
Because the vast majority of multi-modal trips begin and end within
Viroqua and Westby, there is no identified transportation need for
multi-use paths adjacent to the bypasses.
Meetings for both the general public and local officials would be
held over the next year or so.
A project mailing database has been
developed. The mailing list is comprised of study area
residences/businesses, local officials, emergency service providers,
agricultural operators, school transportation officials, and other
interested parties. Receiving this mailing indicates that you are
included in the database.
If you know of others who did not receive a mailing and/or who may
wish to be included, contact: