Road and utility construction pose campus traffic challenges

Campus and city construction projects will force traffic detours on and near campus beginning in mid-May, university officials say. “In many ways, it’s a perfect storm of construction activity, and we want people to be aware of the challenges they’ll face around campus this summer and to be prepared to take alternate routes,” says Rob Kennedy, senior transportation planner at UW-Madison.

One of the most noticeable changes will be the closure of Observatory Drive between Park Street and just east of Bascom Hall, to accommodate utility upgrades and the reconstruction of the Education Building. Officials expect that portions of the street will be closed to traffic in both directions from May 18 until Aug. 24. Parking in Lot 11, behind Bascom Hall, will remain open, but officials are warning motorists not to venture onto Observatory Drive east of Charter Street unless they are going to that parking lot. Turning around on that section of Observatory Drive will be difficult, they warn.

To minimize inconvenience, campus planners combined two major utility projects in that area and are completing both at the same time to avoid a future closure. But there are several other closures that will complicate getting around the campus this summer:

  • Charter Street will be limited to one-way southbound traffic between Linden Drive and University Avenue from May 18 until mid-June for utility work associated with the Sterling Hall renovation.
  • The south leg of Charter Street will be closed in both directions at University Avenue will be closed between June 10 and June 19 as the city rebuilds University Avenue. Access to Lot 22 and the Service Building will be maintained from Johnson Street.
  • The south leg of the intersection of Randall Avenue and University Avenue will be closed in both directions between May 20 and June 4. The south leg of the intersection of Randall Avenue and Campus Drive will be closed in both directions for one week starting May 28. This closure will involve the replacement of a railroad crossing and work associated with the South Campus Union.
  • Access to Babcock Drive at University Avenue will be closed from mid-July to September, also because of the city’s reconstruction of University Avenue.

Kennedy says that northbound access to the central campus between mid-May and mid-June will be available only via Babcock Drive and other streets on the west campus. And northbound access to the central campus will be available between mid-July and September will be available only via Charter Street. Kennedy says a new permanent traffic signal will be installed at Johnson and Brooks street to address additional traffic at that location.

The construction will affect campus bus routes 80 and 85. Although a final determination has yet to be made on alternate routes, Kennedy says those routes will likely proceed eastbound on Johnson Street, go north on Lake Street, west on Langdon Street to the Memorial Union, south on Park Street and then west to University Avenue. Visit to find updated detours and schedules.