BELOIT—Beloit will have a new “front door” once the dust settles from the Interstate 39/90 and Interstate 43 reconstruction projects, and local stakeholders say they want to be ready to prepare the area for future development growth.

Construction on both interstates kicked off in 2017, with work on the south segment near Beloit focusing on I-90 from Cranston Road to the Illinois state line and along I-43 at Hart Road.

Traffic will expand to six lanes by 2021 when transportation officials estimate the final expansion will be complete. Lane expansions from Madison to Edgerton was completed in fall of 2019, with the Janesville segment estimated to wrap up by the end of this year.

Work on the segment of I-43 and Highway 81/Milwaukee Road interchange started last fall. Short-term and long-term closures are expected in 2020 for the interchange. Once the interchange work is complete, westbound I-43 interstate travelers will exit at Hart Road to access Beloit and Milwaukee Road businesses.

The Beloit Daily News caught up with Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) Project Communications Manager Steven Theisen to get a better sense of how the newly constructed interchange configuration would play out, extending Highway 81 (Milwaukee Road) and creating a connection to the Hart Road interchange. As part of the project, there will be free flow ramps from I-43 to I-90 to carry pass-through traffic, along with direct access to I-90 to Highway 81/Milwaukee Road to get into Beloit, while using a diverging diamond interchange concept. The concept will allow for direct access to Highway 81/Milwaukee Road from I-90, and from west-bound traffic to I-43 heading on “the new Highway 81,” he said.

The Highway 81 expansion will move out to Hart Road/County Highway X interchange and motorists will merge to head north. Those traveling on I-43 wishing to enter Beloit will exit at Hart Road and cross over I-90 via the Highway 81 extension. Theisen said the area will look similar to the existing Gateway Boulevard with two lanes in two directions separated by a median to create a ‘T’ intersection at the Highway 81 extension/Gateway Boulevard.

Businesses along the corridor have formed the I-90 Group, a collective of owners that have come together to work in conjunction with transportation and city officials to reduce any harm construction could bring. I-90 Group coordinator Brad Lawver said northeast Beloit was primed for expansion further along the interstate.

“It will open new opportunities at Hart Road and the new Highway 81/Milwaukee Road extension,” Lawver said.

Economic Development Director Andrew Janke said the new interchange configuration would benefit the area and the Gateway Business Park.

“This extension of Milwaukee Road essentially creates a new commercial corridor that could create new opportunities for development,” Janke said.

The city owns about 30-acres of land near the new Highway 81/Milwaukee Road area, at what City of Beloit Planning and Building Services Director Drew Pennington said could be a “future major intersection.” The land is designated as community commercial in the city’s comprehensive plan.

“It is hoped that with its excellent visibility and better access it could attract such uses as lodging, retail, office, or entertainment uses,” Janke said.