Running east to west from Route 32 to Highway 11, Wisconsin State Trunk Highway 50 is a 44.43-mile stretch of highway that bisects the suburbs of Walworth and Kenosha counties in Wisconsin. In 2020, it was determined that an 8-mile corridor of State Highway 50 between I-94 and 43rd Avenue was due for modernization. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation sought to renovate the corridor as a fully multi-modal facility with connected bike lanes along all reconstructed roadways and crossroads, including 38 intersections, two at-grade railroad crossings and three grade separated railroad crossings.
HNTB developed the design for reconstructing the urban arterial highway with an emphasis on innovative solutions identified through a collaborative public involvement campaign. Balancing project scope to best compromise the competing interests of agencies, developers, municipalities, utilities and railroads while adhering to the statewide WisDOT Majors Project budget required a value-based approach to the engineering. One such measure identified by the design team was the re-evaluation of the WIS 50/31 intersection. This led to a change in preferred alternative, converting an expansive jug handle intersection to a more traditional configuration, thereby reducing the footprint and saving WisDOT $4M in real estate and construction dollars.
Additional complexity with design and coordination stemmed from the numerous rail lines crossing the corridor. Multiple signalized intersections, three railroad overpass locations (six total bridges) and two at-grade crossings were constructed without significant rail service interruption; one such line being the Amtrak Hiawatha line, one of the busiest commuter train routes in the country.
In the end, improvements converted the congested four-lane facility to a modern six-lane facility, with connected bike and pedestrian accommodations, while balancing the needs of the individual residence and business owners’ access both during construction and after as part of the finished project. The project coordinated with two separate railroads, 22 different utility companies, two municipalities, 30+ businesses, 250+ property owners while also modernizing the corridor’s stormwater protections by installing over 75,000 feet of new pipe.
Location: Walworth and Kenosha counties in Wisconsin
Client: Wisconsin Department of Transportation
Services: design, engineering
At-grade railroad crossings
Grade separated railroad crossings