BURLINGTON - It might have looked ready, but the new Burlington Bypass, all 11 miles of it, doesn't officially open until today.
It's taken decades of planning at the state level and five years of construction locally. After years of detours and road closures on streets that either cross or connect to the bypass, that all finally comes to an end.
The bypass begins in Walworth County and ends at Highway 36, just outside of the city limits, and gives drivers the chance to get around the city.
Dennis Shook, a regional spokesman for the Department of Transportation, couldn't promise if the entire bypass would be open for the morning commute, but expected it to be ready to drive by the afternoon.
State and local officials hope the bypass will help improve overall safety by getting large trucks off of local streets in the city. They also hope it will cut down on the time it once took for trucks to get through the city, Shook said.
"The overall goal is to bypass the city of Burlington. Like most older cities, the roads are kind of narrow and things are kind of cramped. That's why this has been talked about for so long, because it's difficult for large vehicles to navigate," Shook said.
The last portion of the bypass under construction, most of which lies in the Town of Burlington, was the only section that was still closed. A lot of it is already opened and some trucks have been using it, even though they weren't really supposed to, Shook said.
At $118 million, the project is coming in on time and on budget, Shook said. The project was completed in two stages. The second half of the project, the western half, has been under construction for the past two years, Shook said.
It might take a while for people to adjust to using the bypass, now that it will be open in its entirety, Shook said. DOT officials will continue to use signs to direct traffic on to the bypass and there will be a continued law enforcement presence there in order to help cut down on problems and accidents.