By Shereen Siewert

WAUSAU — After more than a decade of planning, construction on Wausau’s Thomas Street is finally underway.

At a public information meeting in April, Eric Lindman, the city’s director of public works, said much of the street will be detoured for about six months. The first phase of construction, which spans from Third Avenue to 17th Avenue, will widen the street to include a bike lane and a center lane to improve traffic flow.

Heading west, travelers will be rerouted north on First Avenue to Sherman Street and west to 17th Avenue. Heading east, drivers will be routed to Sherman Street to Third Avenue, where they will head south to Thomas Street.

Dozens of buildings have been purchased and razed to make way for the project, which had been the subject of considerable controversy since 2012 when a Wausau Daily Herald report revealed that the city lost millions in federal funding for the project by breaking federal regulations.

The report found that while making property acquisitions on the street between 2008 and 2011, city officials did not properly inform residents of their rights, provide required relocation costs, or appraise homes before buying and demolishing the buildings. Wausau became the only city in the state on the relevant federal watch list because of these actions.

Loss of federal funding meant the city no longer had the resources to support the Thomas Street project. To replace this funding, the city amended Tax Increment District 6 to include parts of Thomas Street as described in its Request for Proposal (RFP).

Thomas Street is one of the few river crossings in Wausau that connects two north-south arterials. About 14,700 cars per day use the roadway, according to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.