Highway 16 project begins Monday

Project will continue through November

It’s one of the major roads connecting West Salem and Onalaska, but starting Monday, Highway 16 is undergoing a major construction project.

For years, Highway 16 has had only two lanes, with only a passing lane located at Nathan Hill.

Starting Monday, construction crews began expanding the road to four lanes throughout, and officials and businesses say the project is a long time coming.

At Features Sports Bar and Grill in West Salem, server Missy Schmitz is always on the go.

But when it comes to traveling on Highway 16, it’s an area she likes to avoid.

“It is a dangerous area,” said Schmitz. “To go to one lane, there have been multiple accidents on Highway 16 up by Nathan Hill.”

It’s an area the Wisconsin Department of Transportation knows needs some work.

“Sometimes it gets almost as heavy as the interstate,” said Dale Merten. “It creates a bottleneck right there.”

Starting Monday and likely going through the end of November, the three-mile stretch of Highway 16 will be reconstructed.

“(There will be) four lanes with designated turn lanes, right and left at all the intersections, and try to improve safety and increase capacity,” said Merten.

In order to complete the project, the Highway 16 will be closed from Pierce and Moos Roads for about 90 days sometime between May and July, during which crews will be blasting rock at Nathan Hill.

“Access will still be provided from either end of the project for all property owners,” said Merten.

Schmitz said it’s difficult to know the impact the project will have on business.

“I could see it one of two ways. It could negatively impact us as people will not be able to just drive past us and 16 will be closed,” said Schmitz. “But it could also bring the community together. People that live in West Salem or Bangor and Sparta may not want to travel around the interstate and may just decide to come this way and stop at Features.”

Regardless of its impact on business, it’s a project they know will be good in the long run.

“It will probably be a mess,” said Schmitz. “But it will definitely help with businesses and travel up there.”

The project is estimated to cost about $12 million, and is expected to be complete by the end of November.

The detour for Highway 16 when it will be closed will be Interstate 90 from Exit 5 to Exit 12.

As always, the DOT is urging drivers to slow down in construction zones.