Residents and visitors traveling through the Village of Turtle Lake, Wisconsin, have seen their fair share of traffic congestion – along with some significant crashes on U.S. Highways 8 and 63 over the years. Both highways are major commuter and recreational routes for travelers between the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro and the lake country of northern Wisconsin. The community’s thoroughfare for entertainment, tourism and business district access, this concurrent section of U.S. 8 and U.S. 63 had been experiencing an influx of traffic, especially evident during weekends and the busy summer season. Increased traffic volumes and speeds had become safety concerns, magnified by an increase in both pedestrian use and heavy commercial trucking.
Two intersections in particular found themselves near the top of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s “Safety Needs” list given their recent crash histories. The first intersection, located at the intersection of U.S. 8/63 and County K/Norway Road, serves as the primary access to the popular Turtle Lake Casino on the north side of U.S. 8/63. The intersection also routes traffic to numerous businesses including the local grocery store and casino hotel, and provides access to Village Hall, the community’s library and downtown. The second intersection is located near the east end of the Village where U.S. 63 diverts from U.S. 8, heading north out of Turtle Lake. This intersection serves as a gateway to the Village and is part of a major commuter and trucking route between Minnesota and Wisconsin.
The answer to traffic congestion and safety concerns at both intersections was the installation of a roundabout. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation hired MSA to first analyze traffic patterns, volumes, and the activity of oversize, overweight (OSOW) trucks, as both highways are designated OSOW trucking routes. After an Intersection Control Evaluation report indicated that roundabouts were the preferred solution, MSA designed two multi-lane roundabouts.
The roundabout layouts accommodate semi-trucks (WB-65 design vehicles) in-lane on the entries and while circulating the intersections. Overtracking pads were added to the U.S. 63 North intersection to accommodate wide OSOW truck turning movements. Additional modifications were also made at the County K/Norway Road intersection to eliminate unnecessary superelevation to better blend into the new urban design and provide further traffic calming. The improvements at the County K/Norway Road intersection also added enhanced multi-modal accommodations with widened pedestrian crossing areas, new sidewalks and upgrades to the local street system and adjacent frontage roads.
The project required significant coordination between local officials, business owners and the St. Croix Tribe regarding impacts to property and access. Because the Tribe operates the Turtle Lake Casino on Tribal Trust land and also owns a number of other abutting properties that support casino operations, complex staging design and care was needed to ensure those properties were accessible at all times during construction. Coordinating with local stakeholders, MSA designed complex construction staging plans—including temporary roadways and temporary traffic signals with timing plans—at both intersections to keep the intersections and one lane of U.S. 8/63 open in both directions for the majority of the roadway construction.
Both of these roundabout projects qualified to receive Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) funding for the conversion. They were constructed in 2017-2018 and have been reducing crash severity and improving traffic flow within the Village ever since. Visitors to Turtle Lake can now continue trying their luck at the casino, but no longer need to rely on luck to get safely through the Village.
Check out MSA’s Roundabout Resources page for more information on roundabout benefits, navigation, safety statistics and use by pedestrians and bicyclists.