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FHWA Announces $300M Investment in Bridge Projects Across the United States, $15.1M to Fund the John Nolen Drive Reconstruction Project in Wisconsin

by: Jessica Hoover
The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) recently revealed plans to allocate nearly $300 million for nine small- and medium-sized bridge projects in both urban and rural areas. The grants, awarded in eight states and the District of Columbia, are part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law's Bridge Investment Program. This program aims to rebuild, repair, and replace bridges of all sizes, with a total investment of $12.5 billion over five years.

The Bridge Investment Program has already made significant strides in the past fiscal year, with $2.4 billion being invested in 2022. This program is a crucial component of the government's efforts to revamp the nation's bridges and represents the largest dedicated investment in bridge infrastructure since the construction of the Interstate Highway System.

One of the projects set to benefit from this funding is the replacement of six off-system bridges along the John Nolen Drive Causeway in Madison, Wisconsin. The City of Madison will receive $15.1 million from the Bridge Investment Program for this project. The John Nolen Drive Causeway serves as a major thoroughfare, connecting Lake Monona to downtown Madison, with approximately 45,000 vehicles crossing the bridges every day. Project sponsors estimate that the community will save tens of millions of dollars through improved travel efficiency, while also benefiting from enhanced safety and increased property value.

The harsh Wisconsin winters and spring thaws have taken a toll on the causeway, which was originally opened in 1967. The six bridges on the corridor, ranging from 48 to 55 years old, have reached the end of their service lives. Over the years, these bridges have undergone numerous repairs due to differential settlement on Lake Monona's bottom. In addition to poor structural integrity, other transportation challenges include dangerous roadway and intersections, unsafe bike environments, poor walkability, and increasing traffic volumes.

Along with the reconstruction of the six two-lane bridges (three northbound and three southbound), the project will also encompass lane configuration and cross-section changes, the addition of a separated bike/pedestrian path, shoreline reconstruction along Lake Monona, installation of traffic signals and street lighting, implementation of smart technologies for traffic management, and improved stormwater management.

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“This is a generational project we’re proud to work on collaboratively here in the city. ... We take this opportunity to replace the bridges and take a moment to create a safer experience on John Nolen Drive for all users: cyclists, pedestrians, and vehicles,” said Hannah Mohelnitzky, City of Madison Engineering Division Public Information Officer. “It requires a lot of coordination in a project of this size and impact, but we’re proud to keep our community safe on one of the most used paths in our beautiful city.”

After the John Nolen Drive Reconstruction project is complete, traffic flow will be improved through coordinated traffic signals and reduced maintenance-related emergency closures; the separated 22-foot multi-use path will provide safe mobility options for pedestrians and cyclists along the Capital City State Trail; the enhancement of the shoreline along the causeway will minimize the impacts of extreme weather events and flooding; and the employment of pervious multi-use trail surfaces, vegetated buffers, and rain gardens will capture rainwater at its source, mitigating flooding and improving water quality.

“Reconstructing John Nolen Drive will allow us to make critical safety improvements for vehicles and greatly expand our pedestrian and bicycle facilities for the most-traveled path in the city,” Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said. “This investment will allow equitable access to our waterfront and improve the shoreline and stormwater management along Lake Monona. It also lets us take our first step forward to redesigning our full Lake Monona Waterfront to welcome everybody into the city through this iconic gateway.”

KL Engineering is under contract as the design consultant for the project, and bidding for construction will begin in the fall of 2024. The project has been divided into three segments: East Lakeside Street to North Shore Drive, East Olin Avenue to East Lakeside Street, and the Broom Street Intersection.

Phase One, covering the segment from East Lakeside Street to North Shore Drive, has been selected for funding and is expected to be constructed in 2025 or 2026. Phase Two, covering the segment from East Olin Avenue to East Lakeside Street, is currently in the design phase and will be fully designed with construction taking place once funding becomes available. The Broom Street Intersection is currently under analysis for potential alternatives to ensure compatibility with improvements to the North Shore Drive intersection.

“Bridges connect us — to one another, to economic opportunity, and to get goods to shelves,” said Mitch Landrieu, Senior Advisor to the President and White House Infrastructure Coordinator. “Rebuilding America’s bridges — no matter how big or small — improves traffic flow, safety, resilience, and our economic competitiveness. Our investment in the John Nolen Drive Bridge — and in bridges across the country — is further proof that President Biden’s investments in our infrastructure are making us stronger and leaving no one behind.”

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