KL Engineering led the consultant design team for the reconstruction of 1.2 miles of USH 51, from Ontario Street to Pleasant Street in the City of Portage, WI. Intersection geometrics and realignments were made to improve vehicle movement, define pedestrian and bicycle access, and address safety concerns. Several multi-use path connections were constructed to the existing Wisconsin River Levee Trail, realigned the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, and improved navigation of the historic Portage Canal. These improvements were cost-effective ways to enhance safety and provide a visually pleasing corridor for travelers.
Some of the design challenges included improving the typical section (terrace widths and pedestrian/bicycle accommodations) along USH 51, while threading the needle between sensitive resources, such as the businesses and residents on one side and the environmentally protected Wisconsin River Levee on the other side. Existing drainage issues along with challenges of a very flat roadway profile, and potential impacts to the levee required significant coordination with the US Army Corp of Engineers (USACE). Frequent coordination meetings with stakeholders included the City of Portage, residents, businesses, USACE, Ice Age Trail Alliance, Wisconsin DNR, National Park Service, and Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway to keep the project on track. Aesthetic elements were incorporated into the downtown historic district and Ice Age National Scenic Trail crossing at the historic Portage Canal and were coordinated with the State Historical Preservation Office (SHPO) to gain concurrence. This $8 million project received the 2022 WisDOT Excellence in Highway Design Award for Best Urban Design Project.