Kowalski Interchange History

Compiled by Community Development Director Randy Fifrick (12/2/2019)

January 1996 - US Highway 51 is designated Interstate 39 between Portage and Wausau.

1997 – Richard Bonneville (Director of Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) Region 4) denies the original request by the Town of Kronenwetter.  

February 11, 1998 – Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) publishes criteria in the Federal Register that outlines eight specific criteria that any potential new interchange must meet prior to receiving approval for construction.

October 7, 1999 The Town Board of Kronenwetter approved Resolution 99-28, which committed up to $20,000 towards the cost of funding a study for an interchange at Interstate 39 and Kowalski Road.

October 27, 1999- State Legislator includes an Interstate 39 interchange at Kowalski Road in the budget bill if it meets FHWA approval. If approved by FHWA, the State will provide a funding allocation for the design and construction. This still exists in Wisconsin State Statutes as 84.02(14).    

June 2000 - This Wausau Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) Local Arterial Circulation Plan was
developed to guide public and private sector decisions concerning traffic circulation in the Wausau area. This plan was an update to the 1996 Long Range Transportation Plan for the Wausau Metropolitan Area. This plan shows an interchange at Kowalski Road.

December 11, 2000 - Short Elliot Hendrickson (SEH) completes a feasibility study and they conclude the FHWA would likely not grant a waiver for the construction of the Kowalski Road Interchange. This was based on their review of the eight criteria dictated by FHWA for additional access justification.

October 8, 2002- SEH assists the Village by creating an Interstate Justification Report in order to determine if a new access point on to Interstate 39 at Kowalski Road would meet FHWA policy for new access points. 

February 10, 2003 – WisDOT submits the Kowalski Road Interchange Justification Report and a request for a waiver to permit construction of the new interchange.

February 19, 2003 - The FHWA denies WisDOT’s request for a waiver to permit construction of a new interchange on Interstate 39 at Kowalski Road.  The FHWA stated the denial was based on the project not meeting three of the eight criteria contained in their policy regarding requests for additional access to the interstate system.

March 28, 2003 - Frank Busalacchi (WisDOT Secretary) sends a letter to the Wausau Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) Chairman relaying the news that the request for a Kowalski Interchange has been denied by FHWA.

June 24, 2003 – US Senator David Obey sends a letter to Mary Peters (Administrator for FHWA), asking for a further explanation of the February 19, 2003 denial.

2003 – In an undated letter, Mary Peters responds to Senator Obey’s request.  She reiterates the three criteria that are insufficient and the subsequent denial.

August 27, 2003 – Village of Kronenwetter sends letter to Frank Busalacchi disputing that the three criteria identified by FHWA are sufficiently addressed and requesting to work with WisDOT to satisfactorily address these FHWA insufficiencies.

November 3, 2004 – The Village of Kronenwetter establishes Tax Increment District #1 in the area surrounding the potential Kowalski Interchange.

May 3, 2005 –Frank Busalacchi sends a letter to US Representative David Obey reaffirming the original findings from FHWA in regards to the Interstate Justification Report. The letter recommends a long-range transportation plan for the Wausau Area be developed by the Wausau Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO).

October 4, 2005- State Representative Jerry Petrowski sends a letter to FHWA. Mr. Petrowski highlights the three deficient criteria and why he believes the waiver should be granted.

October 11, 2005- Congressman Mark Green sends a follow up letter to FHWA regarding Mr. Petrowski’s previous letter.

2005 – In an undated letter, J Rick Capka (Acting FHWA Administrator) responds to a letter from Congressman Mark Green and State Representative Jerry Petrowski asking FHWA to grant a waiver to allow construction of the Kowalski Interchange. Mr. Capka lays out the appeals process and reiterates the earlier decision to deny the waiver.

November 22, 2006 – Graef Anhalt Schloemer and Associates, Inc (Consulting Firm) provides Richard Schneider (Village Engineer) with a concept future interchange design. The conceptual layout of a full service interchange at Kowalski Road and Interstate 39 would be only used for planning purposes.

March 2007 – WisDOT Backbone Study indicates that fixing the Exit 185 Interchange (Cedar Creek Interchange) can be done and there is no need for the Kowalski Interchange.

2008 - When the Kowalski Road overpass was completed in 2008, it was designed to be “on/off ramp” ready.  The overpass could be converted to an interchange with minimal infrastructure modification to the overpass portion of the previous project. 

2009As part of the Comprehensive Plan Survey, a question was posed regarding if the Village should consider pursuing the Kowalski Interchange project. The vote was 56% “Yes” and 44% “No” (586 Yes/460 No).

August 27, 2009FHWA revises their policy on access to the interstate system.  The policy includes the requirements for the justification and documentation necessary to substantiate any request that is submitted to FHWA for approval. This is a minor change to the policy with consideration to social, economic, and environmental impacts.

October 2009SRF Consulting Group completes an I-39/Business 51 Interchange Area Study for WisDOT to preserve the long-term mobility of the Business 51 corridor and the interchange with Interstate 39 in Rothschild. The study looks at different options to address the Cedar Creek Interchange (Exit 185) and associated costs.

August 2010FHWA publishes an Interstate System Access Informational Guide. This guide serves as a compilation of existing regulations and provides guidance on how and what should be addressed in requests for new or modified access to the Interstate System.

May 4, 2011Mark Pertile (Village Trustee), Terry Radtke (Redevelopment Authority Chair), Judi Akey (Village President) and Randy Fifrick (Village Community Development Director) meet to sketch out a plan for the Kowalski Road Interchange project. The next steps would be to meet with Dave Mack (Marathon County MPO Lead Staffer).

May 10, 2011 – Judi Akey, Terry Radtke, Randy Fifrick, Bob Wagner (WisDOT Staff), Dave Meurett (WisDOT Staff), Dave Mack, Blaine Oborn (Village Administrator) , and Sean Von Bergen (Public Works Director) meet to review the history and steps to move forward with the Kowalski Road project and how to incorporate the project into the MPO process.  As part of this meeting, it was suggested to have North Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (NCWRPC) review the previous status of the eight criteria and report back to the Village.

June 17, 2011 –NCWRPC provides a memorandum addressed to Blaine Oborn in which they outline the course of action for the Village to follow in renewing its effort to develop an interchange with I-39 at Kowalski Road.  NCWRPC reviewed the eight criteria in the Interchange Justification Report and concluded that the Village will not meet standards by at least one criteria. In conclusion, NCWRPC states the likelihood of a Kowalski Interchange in the near long-term (prior to 2035) is not favorable.

August 8, 2011 –Judi Akey and Randy Fifrick discuss the Village’s interest in pursuing a Kowalski Interchange with US Senator Ron Johnson and his Staff Member Camille Solberg during Senator Johnson’s visit to Wausau.

August 10, 2011 –Judi Akey follows up with a letter supporting the Village’s position and maps of the Kowalski Interchange concept.

August 1, 2014 –Randy Fifrick and Richard Downey (Village Administrator) meet with Richard Austin (property owner), Geri Kowalski (Village President), Jonathon Lanctin (Legislative Aide to Congressman Sean Duffy), and Gene Davis (Commercial Real Estate Advisor) to discuss the work that had been previously completed to complete a highway interstate at Kowalski Road.

March 20, 2015 –Randy Fifrick met with Senator Jerry Petrowski, Jonathon Lanctin (Aide for Congressman Sean Duffy), and Gene Davis (local realtor) to discuss the status of the project to gain approval for an interchange at I-39 and Kowalski Road in Kronenwetter.

March 24, 2015 – Following a survey that took place over February and March of 2015, the Village Board approved Resolution 2015-007, supporting a future Kowalski Interchange.

August 18, 2016 –Randy Fifrick met with Senator Jerry Petrowski, Jonathon Lanctin and Gene Davis to discuss moving ahead with the Kowalski Interchange Project.

November 2016 – The Wausau Area Metropolitan Planning Organization Long Range Transportation Plan 2050 includes the interchange at Interstate 30 and Kowalski Road as a future regional road project that needs to be evaluated or studied on page 6-7 of the plan.

May 22, 2017 FHWA updates their access control policy. The policy takes the eight criteria down to two criteria. The same eight criteria are still in place but FHWA did this to reduce paperwork and burden. The other six criteria are addressed under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and other statutes and regulations applicable to the approval process. The NEPA report is a required part of the approval process for a new interstate access point.  This change was made to allow FHWA to review safety, operational, and engineering acceptability and not duplicate work and cost to applicants.

July/August 2018 - As part of the 2019 Comprehensive Plan Survey, a question was posed regarding if the Village should continue to pursue the Kowalski Interchange project. The vote was 58% “Yes” and 42% “No” (348 Yes/251 No).

August 27, 2019 – The Village of Kronenwetter adopts Resolution #2019-018, 2019-2024 Village of Kronenwetter Strategic Plan. As part of that plan, Objective 4, stated the Village will seek to improve access to Interstate 39 for increased regional mobility, including a Kowalski Road Interchange.

October 22, 2019 – The Village creates an Ad Hoc committee to investigate the Kowalski Interchange project. The purpose of the committee is to create to reports, a status report and a recommendation report. 

November 25, 2019 – NCWRPC provides the Village with an update to their 2011 memo regarding a course of action toward a Kowalski Road interchange and updated what may have changed based on current conditions of 2019.