Damakant Jayshi

Wausau’s Capital Improvements and Street Maintenance Committee on Thursday gave a nod to change the scope of Business Campus Trail project in the city’s application to Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

The project proposes a multi-use trail through Wausau’s Business Campus that would connect the center to the entire region, while serving as an amenity for existing businesses there. The proposed trail links an existing trail on Innovation Way to a future north-south trail along 72nd Street and would connect to future facilities on Stewart Avenue, providing a bicycle and pedestrian facility that connects the entire western half of the city to downtown Wausau and the region. The 10-foot wide trail aims to reduce conflicts between bicycles, pedestrians and heavy trucks while providing recreation in a largely auto-oriented area.

Engineering Department staff recommended submitting a change request for the trail section from 72nd Avenue to 84th Avenue. The estimated cost for this section would be $2.22 million, with the state’s Transportation Alternatives Program pitching in about a million dollars and Wausau incurring slightly over $1.2 million. The construction work won’t begin until 2025 and staff said that if the revised plan is approved, they will proceed with the design phase of the project.

In a memo to the CISM Committee and during the meeting on Thursday, engineer Thomas Niksich said the previous grant application was submitted prior to bid openings for the 72nd Avenue Trail and estimated construction costs were calculated based on estimates during the design process provided by the city’s consultant – Kapur & Associates Inc. of Milwaukee. But the consultant’s estimates seemed to be way off.

“The actual bid prices for the 72nd Avenue Trail were much higher than estimated, primarily for boardwalk and boardwalk related items,” Niksich wrote. “The proposed trail has approximately 650 ft. of boardwalk, thus an updated construction cost is much higher than what was submitted with the grant and the terms of the grant are less favorable.”

The original trail, from Packer Drive on 72nd Avenue to Innovation Way, was more than 9,000 feet. The city’s share was estimated at a little over $250,000 out of the total $1.25 million cost, with the TAP grant covering about $1.5 million. But a revised estimate of the 9,423 feet trail showed a drastically changed figures, with the city’s share now calculated at more than $3 million out of a $4 million overall cost. The WisDOT grant is unchanged.

This necessitated the reduced scope, Niksich said, adding that the WisDOT is open to such change. He said a request must be submitted and approved. Of the four options submitted, in addition to the practically unimplementable original proposal, the committee chose the 72nd Ave.–84th Ave section.

Committee members agreed to move phase-wise and voted 4-1 to move forward. Alder Doug Diny, who wanted the project postponed, voted against the proposal.

The Business Campus Trail has not been without controversy. The project divided Wausau City Council members over the question of using eminent domain to acquire land for the trail. The matter was dealt at a Committee of the Whole meeting in February last year and the city pledged to work with property owners for the recreational trail project.