PITTSFIELD – Even before Tuesday night’s deadly crash, there were plans in place to make the intersection at State Highway 29 and State Highway 156 safer.
The Department of Transportation has been planning to remove the intersection in 2017.
It plans to build an overpass to take traffic from St. Augustine Street across Hwy. 29. Traffic from Hwy. 156 would be rerouted to Old 29, with direct access to the Hwy. 32 interchange.
“Well there is an above average crash rate at that intersection right now,” said Anna Wisner, project development supervisor for the DOT. “In 2012, we were reviewing the crash data there and we applied for funding to do a project there.”
The DOT’s most recent numbers from 2008 to 2012 show there is .35 crashes per one million vehicles traveling the intersection. That’s almost double the statewide rate for highway intersections.
The Shawano County Sheriff’s Department provided us more recent numbers. It reports there’s been 22 crashes in just the last three years.
DOT officials say they aren’t sure if they’ll look into removing the intersection before 2017. They say even before the deadly crash, they looked at many options.
“We considered building J-turns there, which is a little less costly and could have been done a little quicker than our current 2017 schedule,” said Wisner. “However, that wasn’t a recommended alternative that we’re going to move forward with.”
A J-turn was put in just down the road on Hwy. 29 near County Road VV. J-turns prevent traffic from going across the highway, instead forcing drivers to turn right and then make a move similar to a U-turn.
Tuesday’s deadly crash happened around 9 p.m. A bus had been traveling northbound from Hwy. 156 across Hwy. 29 to St. Augustine Street. The car had been traveling westbound on Hwy. 29 when it hit the passenger-side rear corner of the bus.
Authorities say a 24-year-old Athens woman died in the crash. She was a passenger in the car that struck the bus. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
The driver of the car, a 27-year-old Marathon man, was taken to a Green Bay hospital with severe injuries.
14 students from Pulaski High School’s volleyball team that were riding in the bus were injured. Six students were taken to the hospital, but have since been released.