WIS 20 Reconstruction Revitalizes Village of Waterford
Written by: Caleb Manske, PE; raSmith
WIS 20 is a key roadway that provides a link to I-43 and I-94 and connects the rural areas of LaGrange and East Troy in Walworth County; Waterford and Mount Pleasant in Racine County; and the City of Racine. WIS 20 serves as the backbone for north-south highways and roadways that collect and distribute traffic in eastern Walworth County and throughout Racine County.
Village of Waterford leaders sought to use the WIS 20 project as a catalyst to reinvigorate the downtown area as an attractive venue to shop, eat, and recreate. As part of the team, raSmith worked with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT), the Village of Waterford, their business improvement association – Absolutely Waterford, and numerous stakeholders to capitalize on this unique opportunity to transform this central artery for the Village of 5,700 into a project that will enhance the community for generations to come.
The WIS 20 project would not have been such a significant success if it were not for the extensive collaboration that WisDOT and the raSmith design team were able to accomplish with the local communities, businesses, and residents. The WIS 20 project provided opportunities to exhibit engineering excellence through innovative ideas such as curb bump-outs, highly visible crosswalks, and Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons (RRFB) for increased pedestrian safety; specialized bridge pier construction; aesthetically pleasing community enhancements such as decorative benches, planters, trash receptacles, and street lights; and interim lane configurations to preserve important downtown parking.
The unique opportunity to engage a small community as part of a large reconstruction project created challenges not often encountered on a typical WisDOT project.
Actively engaging the community and keeping clear lines of communication between all stakeholders were key to implementing a successful project that not only met WisDOT’s primary objectives of a safe and efficient roadway, but also added value for the local community.
Unique Project Needs
The WIS 20 project provided the challenge of fitting all of the Village’s desired roadway improvements into a tight urban corridor without negatively impacting businesses and the community’s historic buildings. These challenges also created an opportunity to implement unique improvements such as a three-lane, two-way left-turn lane section and interim parking lanes.
The original bridge over the Fox River was built in 1939 and widened in 1986. A determination was made that it would not be cost effective to widen the bridge again. The historic buildings, with aged foundations, presented challenges to construct a new bridge. However, an opportunity was identified to implement unique pier construction methods that would meet structural design requirements, while also preserving the integrity of the surrounding buildings. The design of the bridge pier was also modified to include drilled piers, rather than hammer-driven piles, to reduce vibrations in the surrounding soils and protect the integrity of the nearby building foundations.
Three schools located directly on WIS 20, and within the project limits, raised concerns for the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists. The reconstruction of WIS 20 provided an opportunity for collaboration with school and community officials to evaluate improvements that would benefit all users. A continuous shared-use path was designed along the south side of WIS 20 from Waterford High School to the west limits of the project, providing connectivity between the three area schools and surrounding residences. Sidewalks were implemented along both sides of the road for the remainder of the project to ensure a connected pedestrian route for all residents, businesses, and schools along WIS 20. The project also included pedestrian-actuated RRFBs to enhance the safety of pedestrians crossing the road. A raised pedestrian refuge median was installed with the RRFB to improve safety for children crossing WIS 20 to access the nearby elementary, middle, and high schools.
The WIS 20 design successfully improved the safety and efficiency of the corridor, while also integrating community-sensitive solutions that meet the needs of the local community.
The WIS 20 reconstruction project will leave a lasting impression for decades to come.
The expansion of the roadway was balanced with the impacts to the tight urban corridor and complemented with aesthetic community-sensitive solutions that enhance the charming nature of the village of Waterford.
About the Guest Blogger
Caleb Manske, PE, is a senior transportation engineer/project manager at raSmith, an ACEC WI member, and served as the project engineer for the WIS 20, Main Street/1st Street, village of Waterford project. Caleb has over 14 years of transportation design experience. raSmith, a longtime ACEC Wisconsin member firm, is a multi-disciplinary consulting firm comprising civil engineers, structural engineers, traffic engineers, land surveyors, development managers, landscape architects, and ecologists.