Uptick in crashes along unregulated Iowa County detour

DODGEVILLE, Wis. (WMTV) -- Construction season in Wisconsin has many drivers frustrated with backups and detours. In Iowa County, an unregulated detour is causing even more backups and crashes.

On Monday alone, County Road YZ near Dodgeville saw two crashes, one involving a car fire. Both crashes happened at different intersections on YZ, along an unregulated detour route.

This comes as construction work has County Highway 18 and 151 near Dodgeville blocked. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation recommends a detour using State Highway 23. Instead, many drivers are taking County Highway YZ, thus creating even more problems.

“It’s an unsigned detour, of course, meaning DOT does not recommend that,” says Sheriff Steve Michek, Iowa County Sheriff’s Office.

Traffic is piling up at US 151 and County Highway YZ, as drivers create their own detour to avoid the construction work.

“Local people believe that County Highway YZ is a shorter route and that they actually save time by using that route,” Sheriff Michek tells NBC15 News.

According to Michek, that YZ route doesn’t really save drivers much time.

“Usually you're taking the same amount of time to sit at that stop signed intersection and wait for traffic to clear, you're taking the same amount of time as if you would have taken the detour,” he says.

Those who live near County Road YZ tell NBC15 News that they’ve seen an increase in traffic since construction on Highway 18 began. One neighbor counted at least 14 deer that have been hit since traffic amped up, and several more crashes.

"Since May 1, we've had a least 15 crashes or more,” Sheriff Michek says.

So far this year none of the crashes have been deadly, but Sheriff Michek says he has seen deadly crashes at the YZ/151 intersection in the past.

“You’re going from a stop signed intersection up to 65 miles an hour in a very small area, and the traffic that is oncoming through that intersection can be doing 65 miles per hour or better,” Sheriff Michek says. “It makes it extremely dangerous to go from a dead stop up to 65 miles per hour, and then you add into that that there are a lot of people using that intersection.”

While the detour may put drivers out of the way, Sheriff Michek says it’s a much better alternative than causing a crash.

“If there's a detour, take the detour. It's not because somebody wishes you to have a bad day and for you to take longer to get to work," he says. "It means that we want to keep you safe."

Officials tell NBC15 that Highway 18 will likely be closed until November. They recommend drivers follow the marked Wisconsin DOT detour until it’s reopened.