By Shereen Siewert

Members of Wausau’s Plan Commission on Tuesday will examine a proposed urban design and transportation plan for the city’s downtown streets, an effort to make the area more attractive for walking, biking and “active street life.”

The Wausau Center Urban Design and Transportation Plan, coordinated between the city and Toole Design, has been in the works for about nine months and included public meetings along with cooperation with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. Cost estimates for the plan range from roughly $5.4 million to $7.6 million,

The plan focuses on the transportation network and streetscaping of the Forest Street and Washington Street corridors, east of the Washington Street Bridge to Sixth Street. Proposed solutions of the plan are divided into three time scales: short term, interim, and preferred solutions.

Recommendations from the Wausau Urban Design and Master Transportation Plan include a roundabout at the intersection of Forest Street, Grand Avenue and Sixth Street. Source: City of Wausau draft document, June 18, 2019

Planners recommend a roundabout for the Grand Avenue/Forest Street/Sixth Street intersection to replace the current layout and increase access into downtown, offering clear direction for visitors while slowing vehicle speeds. The modern roundabout is also meant to serve as a gateway entrance feature permitting a more direct and continuous route for users traveling to downtown Wausau, according to city documents.

Toole’s proposed solutions are compatible with any future redevelopment or changes at Wausau Center mall, whether that involves reusing the existing development or returning the eight city blocks occupied by the mall to a traditional grid system, according to a memo written by Wausau Assistant Planner Brad Sippel.

Additional recommendations include significant changes to several streets including First Street and Forest Street, narrowing travel lanes to reduce speeding and introducing two-way traffic to improve accessibility. Bike lanes are also recommended.

Recommendations from the Wausau Urban Design and Master Transportation Plan include changing some one-way streets to two-way streets in the downtown area. Source: City of Wausau draft document, June 18, 2019

“The result will be land that is much more desirable for businesses and a more pleasant downtown experience for residents and visitors,” Sippel wrote.

Implementing the plan depends largely on funding and intergovernmental cooperation. Some short-term solutions can be accomplished using temporary materials such as paint, planters, bollards and flexible posts, according to Sippel.

According to the report, planners saw “resounding support for considering changes to streets surrounding Wausau Center and other key intersection locations that would positively contribute to the public realm experience” in the city.

The city can adopt the plan without committing to a specific spending amount or time frame.
Tuesday’s meeting is set for 5 p.m. at City Hall, 407 Grant St. Wausau.

See the full document embedded below.
Top image: Screengrab, City of Wausau draft document, June 18, 2019