American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) of Wisconsin

2018 Engineering Excellence Award
State Finalist – Transportation Category

State Highway 54 and County U Intersection

Becher Hoppe was recognized with an Engineering Excellence Award by the American Council of Engineering Companies of Wisconsin (ACEC). In 2015, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) contracted Becher Hoppe to design a safer intersection where Wisconsin State Highway 54 and County Road U intersect because angle crashes, or "T-bone crashes," were a common occurrence. The civil engineering firm designed a special Restricted Crossing U-Turn (RCUT) intersection which allows drivers to safely use the intersection by minimizing the need for sudden acceleration and weaving.

The Highway 54 corridor, between Wisconsin Rapids and Plover, is part of an east/west expressway principal arterial route on the National Highway System and Wisconsin Long Truck Route. WIS 54 moves goods and services that support local agriculture, business, industry, and residents in the surrounding metropolitan areas of Stevens Point and Wisconsin Rapids. The majority of County U is a north/south route located along the Wood and Portage County line and connects the Biron Flowage area of the Wisconsin River to Wazeecha Lake and Highway 73 at the south Wood and Portage County lines.

The intersection between Highway 54 and County U had ongoing angle crashes, including fatalities, due to poor visibility and high traffic volume. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation – North Central Region wanted to improve the intersection to reduce the number of angle crashes and allow safe access from County U to WIS 54. The biggest challenge was designing an effective intersection while remaining within the existing right of way and minimizing the project budget. Public feedback also indicated the need to consider surrounding habitats and access for local cyclists in the design.

Turning these challenges into opportunities for success, Becher Hoppe developed a unique Restricted Crossing U-Turn (RCUT) design. This RCUT, also called a "J-turn", includes auxiliary lanes that minimize weaving, a first in the State of Wisconsin. The final RCUT (J-turn) design minimized costs to the public and impacts to the environment via its general concept of utilizing the existing roadbed and roadway corridor. Project design specifics maintained all the WIS 54 through-lanes throughout the project limits.

Improved safety and stress-free driving are exemplified by this RCUT (J-turn) intersection, and are accomplished by reducing angle crashes and weaving. As a unique design in Wisconsin, it is a shining example of design professionals leading a collaboration with project stakeholders for a successful project outcome.