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Wisconsin Tourism Destinations Feel Impact Of Closed Highway 14

Taliesin, American Players Theatre Worry Road Closure Will Continue To Deter Visitors

Rain falling on a street
naturalflow (CC-BY-SA)

Several popular tourist destinations in southwestern Wisconsin are worried the continued closure of U.S. Highway 14 might deter visitors the rest of the summer.

Major flooding in Dane County damaged the highway in and around Madison last week.

Michael Bie, a spokesman for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, said the agency was able to repair the highway between the Beltline Interchange and Pleasant View Road in Middleton. But he said structural damage to a bridge in the village of Black Earth “will require a long-term repair.”

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Kristine Stoddard, executive director of the Spring Green Chamber of Commerce, said her community is already feeling the impact of the road closure.

“I was out to dinner last night and one of our restaurants was saying that their numbers were down. And they felt it was a direct impact to Highway 14,” Stoddard said.

Stoddard said Spring Green wasn’t impacted by flooding like many communities in Dane County, but she said visitors from outside the area aren’t familiar with how to navigate alternative routes.

“People associate Spring Green with Highway 14, so it makes them feel like we’re cut off from the world,” Stoddard said.

Highway 14 traffic is currently be routed to U.S. Highway 12 and Wisconsin Highway 78.

Sara Young, communications director for the American Players Theatre, said the road closure did impact their audience immediately after the flooding.

“We had about 125 people out of our 1,000-person audience or so exchange out of that performance because they couldn’t make the trip or they were cleaning up,” Young said. “Since then, we haven’t had as big of drops in our audience but they’re definitely taking alternate routes.”

Young said most tickets are sold in advance so it’s hard to track a decline in sales since the highway closed. But she said the last two weeks in August and the first two weeks in September are typically their busiest time of the season.

A decline in tourists could also affect Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright’s home near Spring Green.

“We are a seasonal operation so we are definitely dependent on summer travelers,” said Aron Meudt-Thering, communications developer for Taliesin Preservation. “Visitors make up a majority of our operating budget and it’s really our bread and butter here at Taliesin. They support all of the preservation work and programming here.”

Meudt-Thering said Taliesin staff has been working to get the word out that the estate is still open and accessible to visitors.