FIRST ALERT TRAFFIC: When will I-41 be expanded?

The DOT plans to expand the interstate to 6 lanes from Grand Chute to De Pere by 2030
We get an update from the DOT on the project status and what it will involve.
Published: May. 10, 2023 at 6:00 AM CDT|Updated: May. 10, 2023 at 4:47 PM CDT
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BROWN COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - It’s a highway many of us drive on every day. You may know the Wisconsin Department of Transportation is planning to expand Interstate 41 from four to six lanes from the Scheuring Rd. exit in De Pere to the Wisconsin Ave. exit in Grand Chute.

We’ve heard from a lot of drivers who can’t wait for it to happen -- but it’s not going to be done for a few years.

If you regularly drive on I-41 between De Pere and the Appleton area you’ve probably been in the backups. The DOT hopes they’ll be rare after the I-41 expansion project is finished in 2030.

“If there is an incident, you won’t have as many backups as you do today just because there will be some additional lanes, additional width on the shoulders for vehicles to maneuver around when there are incidents that unfortunately do happen sometimes,” Scott Ebel said.

Ebel is the Wisconsin DOT’s I-41 corridor project manager. He says construction will start next year, but they don’t yet know exactly what sections will be done when.

He says there’s a lot to do, including adding a lane to each side of the highway.

“Predominantly, that lane is going to be expanded into the middle, so another feature that drivers are going to see is a concrete barrier in the middle of the highway, similar to what you see up in Brown County right now, up in the Green Bay area, or down in Oshkosh, in that area as well,” Ebel said.

They also have to upgrade or completely redo all the interchanges.

Some of them will be diverging diamond interchanges -- like the Oneida Street/Highway 10 exit off 441 in Appleton. They make it easier for cars turning left to get onto a highway, and they’re safer.

“Makes it, I’ll say, very difficult in order to have some of the higher-injury-risk-type crashes -- kind of like the T-bone-type crashes are very difficult to have at a diverging diamond interchange,” Ebel said.

The DOT says this project is looking long-term. Right now, 60,000 to 70,000 cars use this stretch of I-41 every day, but in 20 years engineers say that number could be 80,000 to 100,000.

They say that’s the traffic they want I-41 to handle.

DOT officials know many people have been waiting for this, but they acknowledge the construction is going to be hard on drivers.

“We know we’re going to have to shut down interchanges to do some of this work. We know there’s going to be lane restrictions to do this work. How is that going to affect how traffic moves in the area, and how can we best adjust and modify things so we can accommodate people?”

They’re asking for your patience, because they want to keep the construction crews -- and you -- safe.

“Try to be as safe as you can when you’re driving. Put your phone down. Pay attention to your surroundings and to the vehicles behind you and in front of you. Just understand that we’re working to get this roadway constructed as quickly as we can,” Ebel said.

Plans are finally in place to expand I-41 to three lanes (in each direction) from southern Brown County to Appleton.