WisDOT official explains proposed Beltline improvements

MADISON, Wis (WMTV) - The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) is looking at implementing hard shoulder running on the Beltline Highway in Madison. The project would allow drivers to use paved shoulders as a lane during peak travel times.

Monona Police Chief Walter Ostrenga said the department patrols about two and a half times of the Beltline, starting from the South Towne exit to Stoughton Road.

"It is probably one of the most congested areas in the Madison- metropolitan area," Ostrenga said.

Chief Ostrenga said last year they had more than 600 calls for service on the Beltline highway, with a majority being traffic accidents.

He said the stretch the department patrols can be at its worst when people are headed to work.

"It's mostly during the rush hour periods, morning and afternoon commutes, that when it's really bad," Ostrenga said.

Michael Hoelker, the project development chief for WisDOT, said the stretch of the Beltline Monona police patrol is the busiest, with more than 110,000 people a day going by the South Towne exit.

“We are early in the process we have gone through some traffic simulation and some safety analysis, and we believe that it holds promise as an environmentally responsible and cost effective traffic management practice for alleviating congestion and improving safety,” Hoelker said.

He said the concept is used in 17 other states and could reduce traffic time up for 40 percent.

"There would be signs over the top of the shoulder that would indicate the lane is open with a green arrow or closed with a red X," Hoelker said.

However, Ostrenga said he is concerned about losing necessary shoulder space, especially along the narrow Yahara River bridge.

"It would seen they need to widen the road to add more lanes. Just by taking over the shoulder, that doesn’t seem safe to me because now you are taking away the safety zones," Ostrenga said.

Hoelker said they are still in the research phase, and will meet with groups, including the Monona Police Dept., to get input. He said WisDOT will talk to stakeholders, both state and federal, this month.

Hoelker said the project could be implemented as early as 2021.