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The following business impacts as of mid 2002 were reported in interviews with manufacturing, service, and retail businesses within the communities along Highway 29, from Chippewa Falls to Abbotsford. Names of businesses selected for telephone interviews were obtained from a statewide business directory  based on industry category and level of employment. WisDOT also followed recommendations from community leaders on the most likely businesses to be impacted by the Highway 29 improvement. Appendix 3 provides a complete list of the interviewed companies.
Interviewed manufacturing and service establishments reported that the four-lane highway has been a positive improvement for truck drivers using the Highway 29 corridor. Overall, convenience, safety, and a higher speed limit have increased the reliability and efficiency of delivering commodities to their destinations. Drivers also reported less driving fatigue on the four-lane highway.
The expanded highway has been an asset for shipping goods within Wisconsin and surrounding states. A direct route was created for trucks traveling the entire corridor and access to individual business locations became easier.
Truckers reported that in the past, cars traveling on Highway 29 would be dangerously passing trucks and riding too closely behind them. On the expanded four-lane highway, cars traveling at faster speeds now have a separate passing lane.
Increased driving speed has shortened delivery trips to Minneapolis, the Fox River Valley, and all of the communities along Highway 29. Several manufacturers with connections to firms in Minnesota are anxiously anticipating the convenience and time savings that will result with the completion of the Chippewa Falls bypass, anticipated in 2005.
Trucking companies delivering raw materials and supplies to manufacturers along the corridor reported safer conditions and ease of delivery upon completion of the highway expansion. For-hire truck companies have begun offering lower freight charges for deliveries on or near truck routes. Manufacturers using these freight services have subsequently saved money on delivery fees.
One interviewed cheese packaging company processes and ships five million pounds of cheese per week for such companies as Kraft, Frigo, Kroger, and Schreiber Foods. The packaging company has over 1,500 employees in four plants, three of which are in Wisconsin and one in Mississippi. Since 1975, this company has owned and operated its fleet of trucks, consisting of 30 tractors and 76 trailers. The fleet manager estimated that the Highway 29 expansion has reduced travel time from the Fox River Valley to processing plants along the Highway 29 by 20-30 minutes. Even more time savings will be realized when the Chippewa Falls bypass is completed, since the company also ships 5 or 6 truckloads of finished cheese products daily to the Twin Cities.
Other economic benefits were noted in addition to the time savings realized by the cheese-packaging firm. An additional benefit was the reliability factor of completing deliveries in a timely manner. Since cheese is a perishable product and spoilage is a concern, food processing requires a fast turn-around and on-time performance to maintain freshness and quality.
The cheese processing company also uses Highway 29 to back-haul paper products when the trucks are emptied upon their return to the Fox River Valley. From a transportation perspective, maximum efficiency was achieved for this company when Highway 29 was opened to four-lane traffic.
For several manufacturing and food processing businesses operating at a national level, the four-lane Highway 29 did not have a major timesaving impact because the few minutes of travel saved along the corridor did not have a significant overall impact on the total cost of the trip.
The expanded highway's only reported negative impact on trucking was its turning radius on some of the Highway 29 interchanges. For example, in Owen and Abbotsford, there have been complaints that the turning radius at the interchange being too tight for truck movements. Local residents reported that during the winter months, these interchanges could become hazardous. In one community, some trucks have used another route, near a residential area and a golf course, because they preferred an at-grade intersection to the nearby interchange.
Customers rely on fast and dependable service from businesses in the service sector. In the case when immediate service is required, several travel minutes saved by repair companies can make a big difference in providing high-quality customer service.
The repair shops and agricultural service business interviewed indicated that the new four-lane highway has been advantageous to their business, because ease of access and faster travel times allow service representatives to reach customers sooner.
A major banking firm reported that the new highway improvements provided easier access for their customers. The bank has since opened new branch locations in several communities along the highway.
Interviewed business establishments reported that the four-lane highway has made traveling to work faster, safer, and more convenient for their employees. There were no reports of the expanded highway disrupting the workers' travel patterns. In the past, many people felt that the old two-lane highway was unsafe and were afraid to drive on it. With the four-lane highway completed, commuters reported shorter driving times to their places of employment. In addition, passing lanes on the highway enable them to drive at their own pace and still get to their jobs on time.
It is important to note, however, that not all workers used Highway 29 to commute to work.
Workers living within or nearby communities often used local roads. There was less traffic on these rural roads and they were often more direct routes to work.
Overall, the cities and villages along the four-lane highway considered it a positive impact for commuters. Most workers commuting over greater distances tend to use the four-lane highway because it provides faster travel times and better safety conditions. In some instances, workers were even willing to commute a greater distance to work.
When the Abbotsford bypass was completed in 1999 as part of the Highway 29 expansion, workers commuting downtown indicated that Business Highway 29 became much less congested. Before the bypass, vehicles needed up to 15 minutes on weekdays to access one of the major downtown streets. Downtown driving is currently much less congested with improved visibility and vehicle traffic flow.
Finally, there have also been positive remarks from workers in Chippewa Falls who have saved time commuting to work on the new Seymour Cray Sr. Boulevard. Many workers are anxious for the completion of the Chippewa Falls bypass (scheduled in 2005) in hope that it will further reduce their commuting time.
A 1989 photo of Mr. B's Truck Shop (left) and Hardees Restaurant (right) which shut down after the construction of the bypass. Hardees subsequently moved to another location. (1989)
Interviewed retail establishments reported that the four-lane highway has increased the number of vehicles using Highway 29. However, the expanded highway has also made it more convenient for local residents to travel to other destinations for shopping. Many retail business owners saw the positive impacts of higher traffic levels, but also recognized the challenge of attracting customers to shop at their stores rather than in the larger communities such as Chippewa Falls and Eau Claire.
Retail establishments in downtown Chippewa Falls, in turn, are taking a proactive planning approach to the soon to be completed Chippewa Falls bypass. The downtown has launched a marketing campaign called, "Destination Chippewa Falls". Part of this marketing campaign includes a downtown mural that creates an image of the city. This image will be used in television campaigns and on citywide welcome signs to attract travelers from the highway to the downtown area. The overall reduction of truck traffic in the downtown area is expected to have a positive impact on local businesses.
1989 photo of Hawkeye Dairy Store, located on block south of Business Highway 29, has been in business since 1965. The ice cream cone replica still attracts customers. (1989)
In Abbotsford, the bypass reduced truck traffic, enabling more people a better access to downtown businesses. A hardware store and a service station, located along Business 29, reported that their business was not negatively affected since they were mostly dependent upon local customers.
After the construction of the bypass, several businesses: Mr. B's truck stop, a gas station, and a Hardee's Restaurant closed down. Hardee's later relocated to a nearby community along the bypass route.
Owners of an ice cream store and a meat and cheese packaging business, one block south of business Highway 29, said the construction of the bypass initially caused sales to drop. With the increase traffic volume on Highway 13, sales have been much better, with local patrons purchasing ice cream and travelers and visitors purchasing the other products. Residents and business owners in Abbotsford indicated that overall, the Highway 29 bypass has been positive for the community.
Table 1 provides a summary of interview findings regarding trucking impacts, commuting patterns, and other impacts of the Highway 29 expansion.
|Impact on Employee Commuting Patterns||
This section examines the economic variables between a two-lane and a four-lane corridor to determine the economic changes that may have occurred over time. One of the corridors, Wisconsin State Highway 29, is an improved four-lane facility with new interchanges and improved intersections on the roadway's rural sections. The control (comparison) highway, US Highway 10, is two-lane and parallels Highway 29 highway to the south. Both highways are of approximately the same length, serve similar size communities, and provide significant connections for manufacturing and regional shopping centers along the route. Highway 10 was recommended to serve as the control corridor by the transportation district planning staff based on their knowledge of that highway and north-central Wisconsin's economy.
Although the entire length of the Highway 29 corridor was only open to four-lane traffic within the last 18 months, in some of the communities along the route, segments of the highway were completed eight or nine years ago. It may be that not enough time has elapsed to observe any significant economic changes along the highway. Nevertheless, economic data was collected to evaluate the incremental economic changes between the two corridors to establish at least a benchmark for future economic impact studies. The following economic indicators and factors were used to compare growth between the two highway corridors.
In order to determine the rate of population growth along the two highway corridors, population counts were obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau. Analysis included calculating the population growth rate for communities within 5 miles of each corridor during 1990-2000. Along Highway 29, from Chippewa Falls to Abbotsford, were 38 communities within 5 miles of the highway with a total population of 114,909 in 1990 and 122,722 in 2000. This represents a population increase of 7% over this period.
Along Highway 10, from Osseo to Marshfield, population changes from 1990 to 2000 were recorded in 43 communities within 5 miles of the highway. The total population for these communities was 51,387 in 1990 and 53,959 in 2000. Total corridor population increased by 5% for these communities during this period. Appendices 4 and 5 provide population statistics for communities along the two corridors.
A comparison between the two-lane and the four-lane highway reveals that Highway 29 corridor's population grew at a slightly higher rate over the eleven-year period. During the same period, Wisconsin's population growth rate was slightly higher, at 9%.
The Wisconsin Department of Tourism has been tracking tourism expenditures by county in the state since 1992. In an annual report, Economic Impact of Traveler Expenditures on Wisconsin, Davidson-Peterson Associates, a marketing research firm under contract with the Department of Tourism, analyzes traveler expenditures in Wisconsin.  This report measures the economic benefits that Wisconsin residents and local governments derive from traveler expenditures. Most of the research involves on-site, year-round surveys, intended to capture the users'/visitors' full tourist season.
The Department of Tourism provided WisDOT with annual tourism expenditure data for the entire state during the 1992-2001 period. Over this analysis period, state tourism expenditures grew by 109%. The level of tourism spending in counties along both highways grew at approximately the same rate, with total expenditures along Highway 29 increasing by 115%, or above the state average over the analysis period, and total expenditures along Highway 10 increasing by 108%, slightly below the state average.
The tourism expenditure gap between the two highway corridors may be attributed to the increasing number of highway-oriented businesses built along the four-lane highway. Results from the community interviews revealed that often the first wave of development was in the form of gas stations, convenience stores, restaurants, motels, and truck stops. To the traveling public, the four-lane highway also served as a gateway to tourism destinations in northern Wisconsin.
One of the common themes of tourism directors in Door County was the anticipation of receiving more visitors from the Twin Cities in Minnesota. The rise of tourism expenditures along Highway 29 may also be attributed to the increasing number of vehicles (Average Daily Traffic-ADT) on the highway.
The following chart illustrates changing tourism expenditures by county along the two highways. Tourism expenditure figures are available in Appendix 6.
Source: Wisconsin Department of Tourism
[Alt text: Figure 21. Graph of traveler expenditures on Highways 29 and 10 (each shown individually) during 1992-2001. Tourism spending level in counties along both highways grew at approximately the same rate. Total expenditures along 29 increased by 115% and total expenditures along 10 increased by 108%. The expenditure figures are available in Appendix 6. (2002)