Enjoy Fish Hatchery Road while you can; starting this spring, it will be a massive headache for two years

A $22-million construction project will bring all lanes of traffic down to one lane in each direction

MADISON, Wis. — If you hate driving through construction zones, you probably won’t be a fan of this.

The City of Fitchburg is preparing for a $22-million construction project on Fish Hatchery Road that’s expected to last about two years.

Starting this spring, all lanes on Fish Hatchery Road will be narrowed down to two lanes, one going each direction to accommodate the construction work.

City of Fitchburg’s Senior Traffic Engineer William Balke said the northbound side will be worked on first. This means drivers will drive on the southbound side, one lane going in each direction.

In the middle of the summer, drivers will switch to using the northbound side, as crews switch to working on the southbound side.

Reconstruction from Traceway Drive to the Beltline will be completed in 2020. Reconstruction from Brendan Avenue to Traceway Drive will be completed in 2021. Balke said for the 20,000 – 40,000 drivers who take Fish Hatchery Road every day, plan on a 30-minute drive to get through the mile-and-a-half construction zone.

Balke said work of this magnitude hasn’t been done on Fish Hatchery Road since 1992.

“You can see the condition of the road is in really bad shape,” Balke said, in reference to the pot holes that have formed over the years and the cracks along the road.

Balke said the road will be repaved with asphalt instead of concrete, an additional trail will be added to the Highridge Trail to the Beltline, new traffic signals will be installed, new retaining walls being put in place, accommodations will be made for the new bus rapid transit route, decorative streetscaping will be included, enhancements will be made to crosswalks and bike paths, and more.

Balke said the city is working on maintaining access to surrounding businesses during the construction period.

The original plan was for the construction project to last one year, but, according to Balke, members of the city talked with contractors about how they could reduce the cost of the original bids. The contractors said if the city stretched the project to last two years and recycled its materials (such as re-using concrete and the lower layers of the base for the roadway), it would reduce the price by $5 million.

Balke said alternate routes will be in place to accommodate some of the traffic during construction. He said signs will be placed along the Beltline and Verona Road. Balke also said McKee Road will also be under construction between Seminole Highway and Fitchrona Road at the same time.

“I’m not going to lie, it’s probably going to be the worst traffic you’ve ever seen on Fish Hatchery Road,” Balke said.

The city is also planning to take legal action in the Dane County Circuit Court to get approval to add lighting and a walkway to the edge of the Nine Springs Golf Course. The construction plans include putting a bike overpass next to Fish Hatchery Road. These upgrades violate a 30-year-old deed restriction which is why Balke said they need a judge’s approval to make the changes. Balke said the original company that owned the course is no longer in business and ownership was handed over to the county.

“We are asking for an exemption or change to that deed restriction that would allow the city to put that pathway in and light that path,” Balke said.

Balke said he has been in contact with the current proprietor of the golf course who said he is in favor of the changes.