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Preparations being made for changes to Wisconsin Highway 35

December 13, 2007

There is a planned makeover for that long, winding, somewhat bumpy road that leads into River Falls from Interstate 94. That road is Wisconsin Highway 35, and it will become a freeway.

Highway 35 will become safer with interchanges only instead of intersections, said Terry Peterson, the project manager of the freeway conversion.

In other words, the highway will look like Interstate 94. There will be on and off-ramps instead of having intersections.

“In March 2005, WisDOT began holding public information meetings in the River Falls area to gather public input on their proposal to convert the STH-Wisconsin Highway 35 expressway between River Falls and I-94/US-12 at Hudson to a fully controlled-access freeway,” according to the Wisconsin Highways Web site, www.wisconsinhighways.org. “The expressway project completed in 1998 makes upgrading this portion of the highway to freeway standards a matter of simply closing certain private access, building a few overpasses and the like. No timetable has been established for this project.”

Plans are underway for installing an interchange for Radio Road in the year 2013. 

The conversion plan is rather complicated, Peterson said, because the planners have to finish alternative access routes for drivers and residents while construction is underway on Highway 35.

The plan is only in the pre-design phase because more studies need to be completed, such as an environmental impact study. There is not yet an estimated cost for the project.

Peterson plans to begin the project in about 10 to 15 years.

The conversion plan has had some mixed reviews from students on campus.

“I use 35 all the time; it would expedite the trip, it would be awesome and it would be in better condition,” Derek Brandt, Student Senate president, said.

Other students were not so receptive of the idea of Highway 35 becoming a freeway. Mary Zoubek, a senior at UW-River Falls, is against the conversion.

“It is going to cause urban sprawl,” Zoubek said. “I don’t want River Falls to become a city. We should stay small.”

Professor Tracey Gladstone-Sovell from the political science department remembers when Highway 35 was an undivided two-lane road.

“It was very scary to drive on in the winter,” Gladstone said.

Gladstone remarked that the conversion is being done for safety reasons, and even if Highway 35 remained a highway, “it would not hinder growth” in River Falls.

When an area grows, changes are made to accommodate the growth, such as expanding roadways. River Falls has seen its share of changes in the past and it will see many more in the future.