Highway 441 project underway in Fox Valley

Drivers approach the highway 41-441 interchange in the Town of Menasha

TOWN OF MENASHA - Driving around the Neenah-Menasha area may be getting easier.

Work started Wednesday on a five-year, $475 million construction project.

The U.S. 41 and Highway 441 interchange will be getting an overhaul.

That includes upgrading the Roland Kampo Memorial Bridge in the Town of Menasha.

A second bridge will also be built.

For nearly 40 years, drivers have negotiated the interchange at highways 41-10 and 441 in the Town of Menasha.

"I either have to go this way, or I have to go that way, and I have to go all the way around, or I have to go through town, which is a hassle," said Anita Thornton of Appleton.

"There's no access so, we desperately need hook up Highway 10, and Highway 41, which we can't do at this point," said Karen Gibson from the Town of Menasha.

Work on that interchange began Wednesday with a groundbreaking. Actual construction starts later this summer.

"To start moving dirt around, putting down pavement. It's kind of like a puzzle piece, where people aren't going to necessarily see it right away, but when it's all done, you'll be able to go in any direction," said Brian Roper, Department of Transportation project group chief.

A new bridge will be built alongside the current bridge.

"That's going to take over two years. And then once we complete that in 2016, we'll go about the business of revamping the existing Roland Kampo Bridge which is already 40 years old," said Roper.

Six miles of Highway 441 will be widened to six lanes. There will be upgrades to exits at Oneida Street and Highway 47. Sharp turns near Racine Street and Midway Road will be smoothed out.

"Softening those curves so that the posted speed will be 65 miles per hour through the entire stretch of 441," said Roper.

It's a project area leaders say will be good for the local economy.

"As companies look to locate in a particular area, they like to see investment, and communities that invest in themselves," said Larry Burkhardt, Fox Cities Regional Partnership vice president.

In the meantime, people who live in the area say the upgrades are needed.

"It's going to be a little noisy here for a few years, but that's the price you pay for progress," said Gibson.

The project is expected to be complete in 2019.