Project tracker: Highway 26 transformation nears completion
What it is: Work is nearing completion on a key segment of the Highway 26 expansion project.
Widening Highway 26 from two lanes to four allows a swifter, safer, no-stops ride from Janesville to Interstate 94.
When the stretch between County N in Rock County to Fort Atkinson in Jefferson County is completed next month, the speed limit will be 65 mph from Janesville to Johnson Creek.
The route used to involve crawling through small towns, with their stoplights and stop signs. Now, with bypasses such as the ones around Milton and Fort Atkinson, the highway arguably becomes the best way to get from the Janesville area to Milwaukee and other points to the north and northeast.
“The whole purpose of the corridor was to get the truck traffic out of the urban areas, just to facilitate safety,” said Teri Schopp, state Department of Transportation construction supervisor for the project.
But what's safer and faster for trucks is safer and faster for everyone.
Completion date: Probably mid-October, Schopp said.
Remaining work: The four lanes are built, but one lane in each direction remains blocked so workers can finish the job.
Final tasks include removing temporary crossover lanes, changing pavement markings, adding rumble strips, changing signs and landscaping, Schopp said.
Bike trail: One other remaining detail is the paving of a bicycle trail that will tie into the existing Jefferson County bike trail to the north, Schopp said.
Cost: The Department of Transportation includes the Milton bypass, completed in 2013, as part of the 10-mile stretch from Milton to Fort Atkinson, at a cost of $55 million.
Farther north: The speed limit drops through Johnson Creek near Interstate 94, but 65 mph picks up again as Highway 26 continues to Watertown.
The two final segments of the project remain under construction, covering a 6-mile stretch From County Q north of Watertown to Highway 60.
One of the final two segments is scheduled for completion this year and the last one in 2015.
The state has no plans to extend the Highway 26 four-lane highway farther north, Schopp said.