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Safety improvements planned for Highway 53

Courtesy of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation

Two more intersections along U.S. Highway 53 are slated for safety improvements.

This summer, an R-cut (restricted crossing U-roturn) will replace the intersection at County Highway L, and another will be constructed at County Highway Y in 2020.

The project at County Highway L was moved up so the work could be done in conjunction with a planned paving project, said Daniel Bieberitz, traffic and freight engineer with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. The plan was originally to reconstruct the area in 2019 or 2020.

Bieberitz said the R-cut is similar to the J-turn constructed at County Highway B and U.S. Highway 53 in 2011.

Instead of changing lanes to navigate the J-turn, drivers would immediately cross to a restricted lane adjacent to the median to follow a U-turn about 600 feet from the original intersection, then enter another restricted lane on the right side of the road across the highway to turn back onto the county road.

The distance people have to cross Highway 53 is about 600 feet, a shorter distance than the 1,600 feet at the J-turn in Hawthorne.

Planning for a similar R-cut is also underway at County Highway Y because of the severity of crashes occurring at that intersection, Bieberitz informed the Douglas County Transportation and Infrastructure Committee last week.

At County Highway Y, there were six far-angle crashes that occurred, including one fatality and three injury crashes.

"A lot of times, drivers going east on County Y are looking for gaps on southbound, find a gap and go through," Bieberitz said. "A lot of drivers do well; they comprehend that. However, a lot of times, what they fail to do is to look over here in crossings." He said that's how the far-angle crashes are occurring.

Supervisor Marvin Finendale said even with the R-cut, the same thing could happen.

Bieberitz agreed it could again for traffic (while in the median) because they looked back over here, or they fail to just yield or stop, but said that traveling to the crossing point breaks up the procedure into separate stages. Data has shown that breaking up the intersection to different crossing points has improved safety.

The J-turn in Hawthorne, which was the first of the restricted crossings built in Wisconsin, reduced crashes by 70 percent.

Reconfiguring the crossings to the R-cut reduces the points of conflict from 42 down to eight, Bieberitz said. He said the R-cut has reduced crashes about 75 percent where they have been constructed.

Six have been constructed in Wisconsin so far.

"In Missouri, they looked at five sites and they had an 80 percent reduction in right-angle crashes," Bieberitz said. "That's really good."

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