Damakant Jayshi

Wausau’s Capital Improvements and Street Maintenance Committee on Thursday approved a traffic study to determine the overall impact of rerouting and minimizing two highways that run through the city.

Specifically, the study will focus on Bus. Hwy. 51 and Hwy. 52.

Effectively, many of the one-way streets would be converted to two-way traffic if the proposal goes into effect. Converting these streets to two-way traffic would be consistent with the Toole plan adopted by the City Council, City Engineer Allen M. Wesolowski wrote in his memo to the CISM Committee.

According to the proposal, the new routes would see Hwy. 52 using Bridge Street and Bus. Hwy, 51 running along First and Third Avenues from Stewart to Thomas Streets, and Thomas Street from Third Avenue to Grand Avenue.

While some committee members expressed concerns about the impact on Thomas Street traffic volume, they went along with the engineering staff’s recommendation to approve the approximately $150,000 study that will be conducted and fully funded by Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WDOT). The study is likely to be completed in 6 to 9 months. 

“The WDOT wants to minimize highway routes in the city,” Wesolowski said. “Can Bridge St. handle Hwy 52? Can First and Third Avenues and Thomas Street handle Hwy. 51?”

The study would answer those questions, he said.

But he said the city had to demonstrate its willingness to go along with the proposal for the WDOT to go ahead. 

If the study shows the plan is feasible, an environmental study would follow to determine any potential impact on residents and businesses due to increased traffic along the new routes.

The final step, according to the plan, is to identify the financial impacts the route changes would present. Wausau would see less money with less mileage, Wesolowski pointed out. But, with the WDOT taking control of the now city-owned Bridge Street, any reconstruction would be the responsibility of the Wisconsin DOT, saving the city an estimated $20 to $30 million, according to city documents.

CISM members also unanimously approved the staff’s proposal to apply for Surface Transportation Program (STP)-Urban funding for another Hwy. 52-related project under Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The total project cost is estimated to be $702,487, with the federal find accounting for $484,391 and the city paying $218,096. 

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