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'Worst I've seen it': cars bump, bounce down Highway 51 as roadway tenting leads to rocky winter rideSubmitted: 02/19/2019
Ben Meyer
Ben Meyer
Managing Editor / Senior Reporter
bmeyer@wjfw.com

'Worst I've seen it': cars bump, bounce down Highway 51 as roadway tenting leads to rocky winter ride
TOMAHAWK - Two local car mechanics told us a stretch of Highway 51 near Tomahawk is so bad, they won't even drive on it. Both said the road is rougher than they've ever seen it, a condition echoed on roads throughout the Northwoods.

But the nine-mile stretch near Tomahawk especially stands out for some drivers.

"[Highway] 8 to Highway S, the southbound lane, is buckling so bad, you just bounce down that road. The cars, when they bounce down there, the suspension just takes a beating," said Gary Luedke, the service manager at Heritage Chevrolet in Tomahawk.

Luedke has seen problems with ball joints, tie rod ends, and even tires with chunks missing. All of the damage comes from bad winter roads like Highway 51.


The DOT blames tenting, which starts when water, salt, and other particles seep into cracks in the roadway.

"In the winter, when that freezes and you have fluctuating pavement temperatures, it creates an ice lens, and it pushes, the ice pushes the pavement up on either side, creating a tent, and it creates a bump in the road," said Anna Wisner, a maintenance supervisor with the DOT. "In the winter, when those tents are present, there's really nothing we can do."

Part of the issue with the stretch of Highway 51 is its age. It hasn't had a full makeover in nearly 13 years.

Wisner and her staff are planning a major project on the span, but drivers have to endure one more winter after this one.

"In 2020, we are planning a pavement replacement project, and that will resolve the issue," Wisner said.

In the spring, when the ground thaws, the tents recede. That will make the ride on Highway 51 smoother during the warm-weather months.

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