There are only positive consequences to converting the U.S. 41 freeway to interstate status. History tells us there will be benefits for drivers and businesses.
The state Department of Transportation is in the midst of holding public informational sessions to explain what it will take to transform 132 miles of the highway — from its juncture with Interstate 43 in Howard to the Milwaukee County Zoo interchange — to an interstate, a process it hopes to have completed by 2014.
The list of benefits is short but significant.
A study six years ago by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials indicated the I-43 corridor from Milwaukee to Green Bay led to a 30 percent rise in manufacturing jobs in the connecting communities. State Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb told the Green Bay Press-Gazette Wednesday that there is conclusive evidence that many companies prefer to locate near interstate highways.
Making this especially attractive to Northeastern Wisconsin is the fact that there is fertile business development potential on the route between Green Bay and Appleton.
It is also pleasing to hear that the conversion won’t require the elimination of any access points for drivers.
Limited access was provided when U.S. 41 became a freeway. Although there will likely be some widening of shoulders and the addition of guardrails, drivers won’t have to worry about major reconstruction of the roadway to give it interstate status. As most area drivers know, there are enough traffic-slowing projects ongoing on U.S. 41 now.
Although highway officials must meet all environmental impact statement requirements, the conversion will not trample on any environmentally friendly land. The most significant cost will come from the installation of the blue interstate signs, which highway officials estimate will be about $12 million.
What the transformation will do for the landscape is put a cap on billboards. Those already established will be allowed to stay but no additional billboard sites will be allowed, with attrition eventually reducing the number.
The biggest unknown is the highway number that will be assigned. Although 41 would seem to be the obvious number, highway officials are aware it might cause confusion because U.S. 41 runs from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to Florida. It’s a minor hurdle and whatever number is eventually assigned will quickly become part of drivers’ lexicon.
— Green Bay Press-Gazette