The images and video are jarring — and all too prevalent.
For this reason, several area agencies are attempting to stem the tide of wrong-way drivers on heavily traveled interstates and highways.
Officials within the Wisconsin Department of Transportation have announced the installation of 11 detection devices that will alert authorities when a motorist is driving the wrong way.
Harnessing cutting-edge technology, the devices will alert DOT’s Statewide Traffic Operations Center. Command staff will then pinpoint the specific location and relay the information to the sheriff’s office.
Additionally, flashing signage — intended to alert a motorist he or she is going the wrong way — has been added to the radar-based devices and will be instantly activated when a motorist is found to be traveling in the wrong direction.
Mike Pyritz, DOT regional communications manager, said the devices are limited to Milwaukee County for the time being, though they could be installed in other areas of the state — including Waukesha County — at some point in the future.
The pilot program gained traction when the DOT struck up a partnership with the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Department. As part of the arrangement, county deputies will receive alerts when wrong-way motorists are detected at one of the 11 locations.
“This is something we’re doing in conjunction with the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Department, so that is part of the reason it’s only in Milwaukee County right now,” Pyritz said.
The 11 locations build off a few other spots — including the Kilbourn Tunnel in downtown Milwaukee and in areas near Miller Park — where the devices have already been installed.
“We’ve had some nice success with it so far,” Pyritz said.
The 11 new locations include several on-off ramps in the suburbs, including West Allis. Within the next few weeks, the detectors will be active at the following sites:
- Beloit Road in Greenfield (Interstates 41 and 894 and Highway 45, northbound)
- National Avenue in West Allis (Interstates 41 and 894 and Highway 45, northbound)
- Capitol Drive in Wauwatosa (Interstate 41 and Highway 45, southbound)
- Silver Spring Drive and Port Washington Road in Glendale (Interstate 43, northbound)
- The following are in Milwaukee
- Green Bay Road and Capitol Drive (Interstate 43, northbound)
- Howard Avenue (Interstate 94, northbound)
- Walker Street ramps (Interstate 94, northbound)
- Mineral Street ramps at 6th Street (Interstate 94, southbound)
- Mineral Street ramps at 9th Street (Interstate 94, southbound)
- Highway 145 (Fond du Lac Avenue) at 107th Street
- Highway 145 (Fond du Lac Avenue) at 91st Street
The specific ramps are in disparate areas of the county — from some of Milwaukee’s oldest, densest areas to the more sprawling northwest corridor — but Pyritz said each has a common correlation.
“These are areas with on-off ramps that are in close proximity to one another,” Pyritz said. “In some cases, they’re just a few feet apart.”
Some, but not all, of the targeted ramp sites have hosted wrong-way drivers in the past, which is part of the reason for the upcoming device installations. Pyritz said DOT is using data and other metrics to determine where the infrastructure will be placed.
“This is not intended to be an every-single-ramp type of situation,” he said.