Fitchburg is a unique city, being next door to the large city of Madison but being true to its history as a major farming community through the 1950s with over a hundred dairy farms. Area wise, Fitchburg has remained a farming community but since it became a city in 1983, Fitchburg is slowly becoming a traditional suburb of Madison with farmland being replaced by a wide variety of high, medium and low-density communities within a short ride to businesses in Madison. Fitchburg has also developed its own business community, specializing in modern technology but also developing its own local businesses.
With the growth of neighborhoods and new and growing businesses as well as the growth of the neighboring communities of Oregon and Verona to the south and west, Fitchburg’s road system felt the strain of morning and evening rush hours. Before 2012, Fitchburg only had two 4-lane roads going north-south. Verona Road is in the northwest corner of Fitchburg and had 3 stop lights and a 40-mph speed limit in the one mile between Raymond Road and PD/McKee Road. Fish Hatchery Road is a low-speed road going about a mile and a half through a business district in north-central Fitchburg before turning into a 2-lane road. PD/McKee Road is the only 4-lane road running east-west and begins at Fish Hatchery Road. There are several traffic lights and a speed limit of 40 miles per hour as it heads west to Verona Road and beyond. In 2012, Highway 14, a 4-lane limited access freeway was built down the eastern side of Fitchburg going from Madison to Oregon.
2013 was the start of a major 8-year project to turn Verona Road into an efficient corridor for both high volume local travel and interstate travel to Iowa. The first 3 years of the project were spent upgrading the beltline highway and the Madison segment of Verona Rd from the beltline to Raymond Road and will not be discussed further as this part of the construction was in Madison.
The second phase of the project from 2016 to 2020 was devoted to changing Highway US 18/151 (Verona Road) from a 4-lane highway with signals at Williamsburg and PD/McKee Road to primarily a 6-lane divided highway with an additional 2 lanes on each side for local traffic and entrance and exit ramps. This not only eliminated two signals but allowed an increase in speed from 40 mph to 55 mph just south of Raymond Road. The 2-lane off and on ramps at PD/McKee Road are built as a single point intersection to allow simultaneous left turns for both on ramps and for both off ramps reducing the number of signal changes which increase traffic flow. Although traffic congestion was inconvenient at times during the construction, the project kept at least 2 lanes of traffic each way open nearly all the time. The placement of the bridge girders over PD/McKee Road necessitated closing the intersection for a total of 4 nights. During the long construction period with disruption of traffic flow near area stores, some businesses were forced to close but other businesses have already moved in.
The following diagram shows the different stages of the phase 2 project as well as the significant changes to the roads near the highway to accommodate traffic flow during construction as well as to accommodate increased traffic flow entering and exiting Verona Road.
The following two aerial photographs show Verona Road before (July 2014) construction and near the end of construction (July 2020).
The major engineering issue of this project was to deal with a terrain that dropped significantly just south of Williamsburg Way and the flat terrain around PD/McKee Road where an overpass was to be built. The solution used was to lower the highway north of Williamsburg Way and move the dirt south, eliminating the sharp drop and providing the elevation necessary to place a bridge over PD/McKee Road. The new highway is now 25 feet below the Williamsburg Way bridge. To see a time lapse video showing the 3-month project of lowering the highway and building the Williamsburg Way bridge, click here.
Since this phase 2 project was to take 4 years and would disrupt one of the major routes into Madison from the south, every effort was made to keep two lanes of traffic moving in each direction. The following photograph shows how the off ramps were built first and then used for traffic while the new highway was being built.
The final phase of the Verona Road project completed in November 2020 was to finish widening PD/McKee Road to 3 lanes in each direction from Fitchrona Road on the west to Commerce Park Drive on the east. This expansion allows for greater traffic flow and feeds into and out of the 2-lane entrance and exit ramps. Click here to see the video describing this last phase of the Verona Road construction project.
An animated drive through video of the Phase 2 project was developed by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and can be seen by clicking here. This video highlights all the features of the now completed project.
In summary, the 8-year project has provided an important and efficient avenue to travel between Madison and the growing population centers to the south and west including Fitchburg. Altogether 3,400 construction workers were involved using 780,000 tons of aggregate for the road bed and 410,000 cubic yards of concrete for the roads. Click here to see an interview with the project manager reviewing this major road construction.
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation has given the Fitchburg Historical Society permission to republish their images and videos.