Decision on proposed Beltline changes deferred

MADISON, Wis (WMTV) - Transportation officials voted to defer a decision to add a project creating a temporary extra lane on the Beltline Wed. night.

Part time shoulder use is a concept already being used in 17 other states, including in the Twin Cities. At a public hearing at the Madison Water Utility Building, people were able to voice comments and concerns about the project.

It would be installed on a 10-mile stretch from Whitney Way to the I-39/90 interchange.

Bill Schaefer, the planning manager for the Madison Area Transportation Board, said they are considering adding the project to an already established list of improvements.

"The shoulder running part is being done in conjunction with other maintenance work that is planned to be done anyway on the Beltline, which includes an additional resurfacing of the beltline, drainage improvements, reconstruction of the median barrier wall," he said.

However, some Madison residents spoke up at the meeting and said the decision needs more thought.

β€œIt temporary reduces congestion, but since it increases capacity, it also encourages more congestion,” said Madison resident Alexander Harding.

Some said it would ultimately encourage more people to drive on the Beltline.

"I would argue that a project that perpetuates people to drive everywhere for everything most of the time is itself inherently inequitable,” said another Madison resident against the project, Tom Wilson.

However, Schaefer said it could be a cost effective way to manage traffic flow.

"The benefits for the majority of the people are great and not only for passenger vehicles but there is a lot of freight that uses the Beltline as well."

The next Madison Area Transportation Planning Board meeting is in Dec. If and when the shoulder running project is approved, construction could start as early as 2021 and would cost around $20 million.