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Beltline traffic

As motorists flood the Beltline during rush hour, traffic slows to a crawl. The state Department of Transportation will be considering a plan to help improve travel times.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation will consider an improvement plan for Madison’s Beltline that would aim to reduce travel times during rush hours.

The plan, announced Thursday, would implement “hard shoulder running,” which would allow drivers to use the highway’s paved shoulders as lanes during peak travel times, according to the DOT.

The department estimated that travel times could be reduced by up to 40 percent during those high-use periods.

“Imagine being able to reliably get from Whitney Way to the Interstate in 10 minutes during peak travel times,” DOT Secretary Dave Ross said in a statement.

The improvements would be effective at alleviating traffic congestion for about 10 years, the department said, during which time long-term improvements would be evaluated.

Seventeen states use this method of opening shoulder lanes for travel, the department said, which alleviates congestion and makes the highways safer.

The modifications would use the Beltline’s existing footprint, which would be cost effective and would not impact the surrounding environment, Ross said.

DOT will begin to seek input from federal, state and local businesses and residents who have an interest in the project early next year. The necessary modifications to make the shoulders travel-ready could be completed in about two years.

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Shelley K. Mesch is a general assignment reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal. She earned a degree in journalism from DePaul University.