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MADISON, Wis. -A study focused on economic stability and the future of Wisconsin will look at crash and traffic data for 35 miles of Interstate 39/90/94 between Madison and Portage.

The study will also identify key cultural and natural resources.

“Basically what we’re doing is looking at a comprehensive analysis of existing and future conditions along the interstate, and from that we will put together a list of deficiencies, needs, possible safety improvements and carry that forward to address long-term future travel,” said Robert Knorr, project manager for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s interstate study.

The importance of the corridor is tied to tourism and the interstate transportation of goods. During the summer, traffic can exceed 110,000 vehicles per day in the Madison area and 20 to 28 percent of the daily total is truck traffic.

“This corridor is critical to this area, and it carries roughly $650 million in freight every day, so it is vital to the state economy and the U.S. economy,” Knorr said.

The age of the corridor and the growth in use are contributing factors in the need for the study. Of the 37 bridges in the corridor, 29 were built more than 50 years ago.

“This is a section of interstate that was built in the late '50s and early '60s and everything is showing its age,” said Steven Katzner, a bridge maintenance and inspection engineer with the DOT.

Bridges in Wisconsin are inspected every two years and every bridge is given a sufficiency rating. That rating takes into account structural factors observed during the inspection and the amount of traffic the bridge is asked to handle.

Katzner said while the life expectancy of a bridge is between 50 and 75 years, the bridges in the study corridor are sound.

“Yeah, some are showing their age a little more than others, but are they safe, definitely,” Katzner said.

Two public involvement meetings are scheduled to discuss the study. The first is taking place at Herzing College in Madison on Jan. 13 from 5-7 p.m. The second will take place on Jan.15 from 5-7 p.m. at the Lodi Elementary School.

Additional public involvement meetings will be held during the next two years. In 2017, a draft of an environmental impact statement will be created and by 2019 a final environmental impact statement will be written and a record of decision will be completed.

Study looks into future of multibillion-dollar highway

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