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Flex Lanes help reduce crashes, decrease travel time on Beltline

MADISON, Wis. – Early data from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation shows even as the number of people using the Beltine has risen, travel times are trending down.

The latest numbers from the WI DOT showed in October of 2022 drivers spent between 40 to 60 percent less time on the road than the same month in 2019.

Since they opened late summer, the flex lanes between Whitney Way and the I-39/90 DOT, have cut commuter travel time down with each passing month. Data shows Iin August travel time was down by 30 percent and in September 35 percent, both compared to 2019.

RELATED: What is a Flex Lane and how do I use it? WisDOT has answers

It’s been a welcome change for many regular beltline users like Tytree Johnson.

“I think the Flex Lane is a good way to travel if you’re trying to get out of traffic and get past the slow drivers who are driving under the speed limit,” Johnson said.  “I wish they could keep that green thing going all night too sometimes.”

DOT officials said they try to keep the Flex Lanes open 90 percent of the time during peak travel times in the morning and afternoon. So far they’ve just about reached that goal. In 2022 rom August to October the extra lanes were available during 97 percent of the planned operating time.

Still many users do have one complaint, that not every driver uses the Flex Lanes as intended. Katie Schauberger said she appreciates what the new lanes have done for travel times but is also worried about safety.

“It can be a little bit scary when people are using it when it’s not open,” she said. “They’re usually going really fast around me or around somebody else and just using it to fly through traffic.”

RELATED: ‘Beltline Bob’ shares thoughts on Flex Lane’s first day

DOT officials said they know there are drivers who abuse the Flex Lanes but said that most Beltline users are doing it right. They also reported fewer crashes in 2022 between August to October going from more than 160 over those three months in 2019 to 135.

Jose Fajordo said with theses early indicators in mind he’s glad for the investment in local infrastructure despite the few who misuse it believing it’s up to police to stop them.

“People are dumb,” Fajordo said. “Some people I guess are going to that but I’d rather have it then don’t have it because it actually helps.”

DOT officials noted to get a more complete look at the impact the Flex Lanes have had on traffic they would need at least one year of data on usage.

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