Comments after Public Involvement Meeting of October 14, 2014
Project ID 1166-12-09
I-39/US10 east/WIS 66 west interchange
Hello – I am writing to offer my comments about the proposals for the I-39/US 10E/Wis 66W interchange. I am writing this after the Public Involvement Meeting of October 14 and before the October 30 deadline for comments.
Let me start by mentioning that my comments will mostly discuss bicycling and walking issues surrounding the concept designs. Furthermore, my bicycling activity is primarily of a transportation nature. I use a bicycle for most of my local transportation needs, and I frequently use it to carry goods I have purchased and other items required for my errands. I usually travel at slow bicycle speeds – around 10-12 MPH, and sometimes travel by bike even more slowly – around 6 MPH. I will be commenting on bicycle accommodations for this project that are suitable for this sort of riding.
My first sets of comments will discuss some issues with the current configuration of the I-39/US 10E/Wis 66W interchange. I mention these issues as a way of asking you to avoid creating similar hazards for people biking and walking in any new design. Because of the variety of concept designs present, it is easier to present these issues in this fashion rather than to talk specifically to the various options.
By the way, I would certainly encourage passing my comments about the current configuration along to the appropriate WisDOT officials empowered to make immediate modifications to the existing interchange.
(1) The unpredictable westbound Walk signal – hazard with southbound I-39 offramp to eastbound 10/66 right turns and northbound-to-eastbound right turns at Country Club Dr
The following describes a current hazard each of two intersections with US 10E/Wis 66W (10/66): one at the offramp at the west side of the overpass, and one at Country Club Dr (CC Dr). The hazard involves crossing these intersections bicycling or walking westbound when using the sidewalk on the south side of 10/66.
Here is a list of the key elements of both intersections that permit the hazard to exist:
- At both intersections, the person biking/walking westbound must first cross dedicated right-turn lanes for traffic coming from their left to an initial refuge island, beyond which the person biking/walking must continue across the remaining traffic lanes to cross the intersection and continue on the sidewalk.
- At both intersections, a Walk/Don’t Walk signal governs the full biking/walking crossing across both the dedicated right-turn lanes to the initial refuge island as well as the traffic lanes beyond that refuge island.
- At both intersections, motor vehicles in these dedicated right-turn lanes onto eastbound 10/66 may turn right on red.
- At both intersections, motor vehicle traffic heading westbound on 10/66 that wishes to make a left turn (onto the southbound I-39 onramp or onto southbound CC Dr) has a dedicated left-turn signal that goes green at the start of the overall green signal phase for westbound 10/66 traffic.
The scenario creating the hazard is the following. The person biking/walking arrives at the intersection while the traffic coming from their left has a green light (for right turns as well as other movements). There are also motor vehicles heading westbound on 10/66 in the left-turn lane waiting to turn left onto the offramp or CC Dr.
Eventually, that green light for traffic from the left turns red. At that moment, the vehicles from the offramp/CC Dr in the right turn lane come to a stop and are likely to see the person biking/walking on the sidewalk at the approach to the crosswalk. If the person biking/walking were able to start crossing the intersection at that moment, the right-turning vehicle would easily notice this and wait for the person biking/walking to clear before making a right-turn-on-red if eastbound traffic on 10/66 permits.
Unfortunately, the signal phasing in this scenario does not allow the person biking/walking to start crossing the intersection immediately because the Don’t Walk signal persists for a while. The westbound-to-southbound left turning vehicles get a green left-turn-arrow at this time. Vehicles from the offramp/CC Dr in the right turn lane will look to their left (away from the person biking/walking), notice the eastbound traffic on 10/66 does not have a green, and proceed to turn right on red.
This sort of right turning activity will persist until the westbound-to-southbound left-turn-arrow turns red, and beyond in the case where there is no eastbound 10/66 traffic. The hazard is that few of these right-turn-on-red vehicle operators will look right again to see is the person biking/walking has entered the intersection now that they have the Walk signal.
This hazard is created because after the moment when the right-turning vehicles from the offramp/CC Dr onto 10/66 get a red light, there is an unpredictable amount of time before westbound people biking/walking get a Walk signal. This unpredictability is caused by the left-turn signal for westbound-to-southbound traffic.
There are a few simple ways to handle this unpredictability that would improve safety and comfort for people biking and walking in this scenario. Any one of these would suffice:
- For westbound-to-southbound left turns, move the left-turn-arrow green phase from the start of the east/west green phase to the end of the east/west green phase. This would allow the Walk signal to always come on immediately after the right-turn lane for the offramp/CC Dr gets its red light.
- Split the Walk/Don’t Walk signaling into two movements: one for crossing the right-turn lanes to the initial refuge island, and one for crossing from that refuge island across the remaining lanes. This would allow the Walk signal across the right-turn lanes to the refuge island to always come on immediately after the right-turn lanes from the offramp/CC Dr gets its red light (since there is no conflict with the westbound-to-southbound left turning traffic), whereas the remaining crossing beyond the refuge island can remain Don’t Walk until the left-turn-arrow phase turns red.
- Prohibit right-turn-on-red for traffic from the offramp/CC Dr onto eastbound 10/66. (This approach is probably undesirable as it will queue up right-turning traffic, and many will probably turn right-on-red anyway, sustaining the hazard. But I mention this since it is an approach to addressing this hazard.)
I’d like to add that as these intersections are currently configured, this issue primarily affects people biking/walking westbound. For eastbound people biking/walking, the following currently mitigate the hazard:
- Vehicle operators in the right-turn-lane from the offramp/CC Dr looking to turn right onto eastbound 10/66 will be looking to their left, which increases the likelihood that they notice any person biking/walking eastbound that enters the crosswalk in front of them.
- Eastbound people biking and walking who start across the intersection must cross a right-turn-lane from westbound 10/66 onto the onramp/CC Dr. This crossing is not governed by the Walk/Don’t Walk signal, and a Yield sign alerts this right-turning traffic to people who may bike or walk in front of them to a refuge island. This portion of the crossing does not admit the same hazard as described above.
Let me end my discussion of this hazard by clarifying that the directionality of this hazard is specific to the current configuration of these two intersections, where there is only a crosswalk on the south side of 10/66. Depending on the specifics of any new design, the components of this hazard may occur for either westbound or eastbound people biking and walking.
(2) Westbound people biking and walking are ignored at the northbound I-39 offramp to eastbound US 10 because of drivers looking the other way for a gap in traffic
Motor vehicles that currently exit from northbound I-39 in order to head eastbound on US 10 arrive at an unsignalized right-turn-only offramp at US 10. Drivers of such vehicles routinely look exclusively to their left (towards the west) to look for a gap in traffic so they can continue eastbound on US 10.
The hazard comes when a person biking or walking westbound on the sidewalk on the south side of US 10 arrives at this offramp. If a motor vehicle is waiting to turn right when the person biking or walking arrives, it can be very hard to attract the attention of the driver of that vehicle to ensure safety in biking/walking the crosswalk across that offramp lane. Although the person walking (and biking, assuming they are essentially operating as a person walking) has the right-of-way by entering the crosswalk, having that right-of-way is of little use if the driver of the right-turning vehicle is essentially ignoring everything to their right because of their focus to their left.
I do not know what tools are available to improve this hazard. I ask that in the new designs, any such tools effective in substantially reducing this hazard be implemented for similar situations, or else that such unsignalized right-turn-only offramps be avoided.
(3) Whenever I walk or bike across the signalized intersections in this region, I feel uncomfortable due to the motor-vehicle-sized scale of the intersections
The signalized intersections in this area – at Country Club Dr, at the onramp/offramp just west of the I-39 bridge, and at Maple Bluff/Old Hwy 18 – all are built to a very large scale. Whenever I bike or walk across these intersections, whether north-south or east-west, I feel insignificant and easily overlooked by turning traffic which can cross my path when I have the green and/or Walk signal. Turning motor vehicles are generally looking for other motor vehicles to identify safe gaps, and a small person walking or biking in the huge expanses of these intersections is not so easy to locate.
I only have limited suggestions for improving this issue for the intersections in the new design. Shorter crossing distances would help, but the need to accommodate multiple lanes of traffic limits such options. Refuge medians and islands would help, since people biking and walking could then focus on traffic from one direction at a time in making a crossing – this alleviates the issue but doesn’t really fix it. If there are other tools available for addressing this issue, I encourage you to use them in the new designs.
I now continue with comments specific to concept design features presented at the October 14 public information meeting.
(4) Although all the walk/bike bridge options have merits, my top preference is Option B along the south side of 10/66
There is currently a multi-use path (MUP) along the south side of WI 66 running from Iverson Park to the intersection with Country Club Dr (CC Dr). A direct continuation of that path along US 10/Wis 66 (10/66) is key to creating safe, comfortable, and convenient access to businesses on the east side of I-39. For this reason, my top preference among the walk/bike bridge options presented is Option B along the south side of 10/66.
Option A on the north side of 10/66 has merit for its potential to connect to a path east of I-39 that would head north to a future bridge across the Plover River to Hoffmeister Dr. However, for someone travelling by foot or bike along 10/66 to a destination on the south side of Hwy 10, Option A would require two crossings of 10/66. Crossing this busy highway walking or biking never feels comfortable, so having to cross twice would be a major discomfort and inconvenience.
If it is possible to build both Option B and Option A, this would be even better than Option B alone.
If Option B (and Option A) could be reasonably built in such a way so as to run over or under the onramps and offramps in order to avoid conflicts with such I-39 motor vehicle traffic, that would be even better.
Option C connecting CC Dr to Old Hwy 18 south of the 10/66 bridge also has merit. The Option C route and bridge obviously avoids all conflicts with onramp and offramp traffic to/from I-39. Its main drawback is its lack of directness for bicycle travel along 10/66. It is for this reason that my preference is for Option B. But I consider it a better stand-alone option than Option A.
I would like to state one additional preference regarding Option C. If part of this option includes building a MUP along CC Dr, I would prefer this MUP be placed on the west side of this road, with some type of crossing treatment across CC Dr at the location where Option C turns east toward the bridge over I-39. There is already a MUP on the west side of this north/south corridor further south along Hoover Ave. By placing the Option C CC Dr MUP on the west side, this retains the future possibility of connecting up these MUPs by building a future MUP in the short gap along the west side of CC Dr. This would result in a MUP running from WI 66 all the way down to Pacawa Park in Plover (over 5 miles). The opportunity to build such a long MUP in an urban area with a limited number of cross streets and driveways is rare. Existing intersecting MUPs make this opportunity even better: Tomorrow River Trail, Heartland Trail, MUP along 66 to Iverson Park. To keep the opportunity available to expand into an extraordinary bicycle MUP network, I would prefer, if Option C is implemented, that the MUP along CC Dr be placed on the west side of this road.
(5) I greatly prefer frontage/backage road options between Maple Bluff/Old Hwy 18 and Sandy Lane that remove all driveway access to US 10 in order to create a safe implementation of multi-use paths or protected bike lanes along US 10
Bicycling access along US 10 east of Maple Bluff/Old Hwy 18 is terrible. The south side of the highway has only a narrow sidewalk. The north side does not even have a sidewalk.
When I need to travel by bicycle in this area – every week or two in the warmer months – I either take a circuitous route via either Maple Bluff or Old Hwy 18, or I cut through parking lots (e.g., Target to Culvers to Buffalo Wild Wings to Dairy Queen to Frank’s Hardware to etc.), or I take the south sidewalk with some trepidation at every driveway. None of these approaches can be considered safe, comfortable, and convenient.
When the Portage County Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan was being formed (note: I was on the Urban Steering Committee for the plan effort), a multi-use path (MUP) along US 10 was proposed in a preliminary draft (dated 11/26/13). But when the final plan came out a few months later, that MUP was eliminated east of Maple Bluff/Old Hwy 18. When I asked about this change, I was told that the numerous driveways made it imprudent to place a MUP along this section of US 10.
Because of the high-volume, high-speed traffic on US 10, safe, comfortable, and convenient access to the businesses along US 10 by bicycle would require either a MUP, a protected bike lane (with a physical barrier – i.e., more than just paint – between the bike lane and the standard travel lane), or something similar. If the presence of driveways would rule out such bicycle accommodations, then I prefer an option that eliminates such driveways in order to permit the installation of a MUP or protected bike lane.
(6) I greatly prefer options that do not create a direct motor vehicle connection south of 10/66 between Country Club Dr and Old Hwy 18
Old Hwy 18 is currently an excellent choice for bicycling out of Stevens Point to reach County Hwy R and points east. One key example of a bicycle transportation use for Old Hwy 18 is to connect to the multi-use path along County Hwy R in order to access Crossroad Commons.
Old Hwy 18 itself is relatively narrow, and part of it has an urban shoulder of substandard width for comfortable bicycling (I believe the shoulder is 4’ wide). That shoulder often accumulates debris and is unreliable as a suitable place to bicycle.
Yet Old Hwy 18 still is an excellent road for bicycling. This is mainly because traffic volumes on Old Hwy 18 are low, and any motor vehicle traffic that is encountered generally stays near the posted 25 MPH speed limit.
Some of the concept design options propose to connect Country Club Dr to Old Hwy 18 via a bridge suitable for motor vehicles south of 10/66. I fear that if such a bridge were constructed, Old Hwy 18 would get substantial additional motor vehicle traffic. Furthermore, since much of the additional traffic would be ‘cut-through’ traffic trying to avoid Hwy 10 (as opposed to local traffic accessing nearby homes), much of the additional traffic can be expected to travel in substantial excess of the posted 25 MPH speed limit.
(A nearby example illustrating the likeliness of creating of this sort of speeding problem on Old Hwy 18 is the residential stretch of Porter Rd between County Hwy R and Hoover Rd. It is posted 25 MPH, but since most of the traffic is ‘cut-through’ trying to cross I-39 there, speeding on this stretch is a major problem.)
Increasing traffic volume on Old Hwy 18 would substantially degrade this road as being suitable for transportation bicycling. Since much of the extra volume can be expected to travel at moderate speeds substantially above 25 MPH, this would only make the degradation worse.
I greatly prefer that you avoid any option that creates a direct motor vehicle connection south of 10/66 between Country Club Dr and Old Hwy 18 in order to preserve Old Hwy 18 as a suitable road for people bicycling.
(7) I prefer the avoidance of the roundabout option for the interchange because multi-lane roundabouts are problematic for people bicycling and walking to negotiate.
I have done some past research into how well roundabouts work for people walking and biking. The general consensus from studies around the US is that for single-lane roundabouts, people walking and biking can negotiate them well. However for multi-lane roundabouts, there are mixed reviews about how well these work for people biking and walking.
One of the options presented (Option 5) involves roundabouts at several intersections. Because of the volume of traffic that is expected to pass through these intersections, these would likely be multi-lane roundabouts. It is highly questionable whether there would be safe and comfortable ways to negotiate these multi-lane roundabouts biking and walking. For this reason, I prefer you avoid the roundabout option for this interchange.
(8) I ask you to consider on-road bicycle accommodations in each direction along 10/66 in addition to any multi-use paths or walk/bike bridges built as part of this project
In the area of this interchange, I am likely to prefer riding on off-road paths, such as multi-use paths (MUPs), to travel across I-39. However, I am aware of those who will prefer to exercise their legal right to travel directly on the road surface along 10/66. The speeds these people ride their bicycles at – often in excess of 20 MPH – are not appropriate for riding on MUPs.
Such bicycle riders might choose to take-the-lane along 10/66 as their safest option for bicycle travel. However, this is probably a suboptimal situation for all road users. By creating bike lanes on 10/66 in addition to any other proposed bicycle accommodations, these faster bicycle riders can have a dedicated place to ride without them impeding motor vehicle traffic moving substantially faster.
A standard 5’ bike lane in each direction could suffice for such riders. It would be better if a buffered bike lane (with at least a 2’ no-drive buffer) could be implemented. And best would be a separated bike lane (where a physical barrier, such as raised concrete, would be placed in the buffer zone).
In the case of a separated bike lane with a substantial barrier (like raised concrete or concrete bollards), even a slow transportation bicycle rider like myself would be likely to regularly utilize that accommodation.
Depending on the implementation, this type of arrangement with separated bike lanes might be feasible by building both Options A and B for biking/walking across I-39. The additional bridges could be separated from motor vehicle traffic by the existing bridge’s railings, thus creating the barrier from the bike lane. The surface of each additional bridge would be two-level, with a road-level surface for bicycling on the inside and a curb-level surface for walking on the outside. Making the bike lane and the sidewalk each 6’ wide would allow sufficient room for both biking and walking traffic, including room in the bike lane for those faster to pass those slower.
By the way, this sort of option could allow additional room on the current bridge deck for motor vehicle lanes.
If separated bike lanes in each direction via both Options A and B were implemented, then the signalization at any intersection they approach would need to accommodate bicycles appropriately. Possibilities include a bicycle-specific signal with an advanced green (people biking and walking get a green light a few seconds before motor vehicles who might turn across these bike lanes) or a bike/walk-only green phase. Some such signalization consideration for people biking and walking would be critical to overcome the lack of alertness of turning motor vehicles to bike/walk traffic.
Thank you for taking the time to read my comments about this project. I look forward to hearing more about the proposed designs for the I-39/US 10E/Wis 66W interchage as this project moves forward.
I’d like to add that the content of my comments are also available on my Poky Pedaling Stevens Point website, PokyPedalingStevensPoint.org. You can locate them at the following URL:
Please feel free to share this link with any who might have interest.
Poky Pedaling Stevens Point