W. Wisconsin St. construction underway, businesses open | Portage Area Chamber of Commerce

W. Wisconsin St. construction underway, businesses open

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US 51 construction shifts to 2nd phase
By Jonathan Richie of Portage Daily Register
May 27, 2021

Construction season is well underway in Wisconsin and that includes the second phase of the US 51 road project in Portage. Traffic flow is a main concern of drivers and workers.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation is overseeing the $7 million reconstruction of Wisconsin Street/Highway 51 project. The goal of the project is to improve and realign intersections, like the Wisconsin Street/De Witt Street intersection, improving bike and pedestrian paths, replace the sewer system and reconstruct the pavement.

Phase one of the construction project focused on DeWitt Street from East Pleasant Street to Wisconsin Street/Highway 51. The resurfacing of that road along with new sidewalks was completed earlier this month and now the DOT-led project shifts to the second phase – West Edgewater Street to Ontario Street.

The current traffic configuration has Wisconsin Street closed down to through traffic, however, local traffic can still use the road. The DOT advises local traffic motorists to remain vigilant as they will be sharing the road with large construction vehicles.

State Highway 60 and Interstate 39 as a detour to route vehicles around the construction and still get to downtown Portage.

Businesses are remaining open during the construction just like during the first phase of the project. Those businesses that are inaccessible from East Wisconsin Street can still be accessed from Thompson Street.

The number one complaint the project is seeing is traffic configurations which allows local traffic into the work zone to go to businesses and homes along Highway 51, but non-local traffic is taking advantage of the work zone.

“Thompson Street is supposed to be used for getting to businesses along 51,” said Portage Public Works Director Aaron Jahncke. “It’s not for people pulling their 25-foot trailer trying to avoid the detour.”

Jahncke said he has been in contact with the DOT and has requested signs further out of town to explain the detour.

“We’ve got a lot of out of town traffic that are continuing to drive through the site,” Jahncke said.

Gregory Payne, of the DOT, said all of Wisconsin Street will remain open to EMS and emergency services like Fire trucks and police vehicles throughout the project.

“It’s a requirement that we leave two lanes open to traffic in the work zone,” Payne said.

Phase two includes resurfacing all four lanes on US 51 and the sidewalk on Wisconsin Street between Ontario Street and De Witt Street.

The DOT plans on putting a pocket park at the intersection Wisconsin Street and DeWitt Street. The park will include bike racks, trees, decorative light poles and new concrete sidewalk. Another addition will be two new ramps connecting the sidewalk on Highway 51 to the Levee Trail.

“Right now, there are steps leading from Wauona Trail, so we’ll be taking those out and putting an ADA accessible ramp in,” Payne said. “We will also be putting in a second ramp at Washington Street for a second access point for the Levee Trail.”

On Wednesday morning, crews were moving dirt after having ripped up the westbound lanes on Highway 51. One lane has already been ripped up all the way from Wisconsin Street to Ontario Street. They are in the process of replacing the storm sewer system below the road.

The DOT originally planned to replace the Portage Canal culvert in May, but now the plan is to replace the culvert in the second week of June.

Payne said once the culvert is replaced there will be a hard closure on the Canal crossing for 14 days to allow the material to set. After that crews will begin work on the pocket park at the Wisconsin/DeWitt intersection.

Payne said drivers can expect to continue to use the Highway 60 and Interstate 39 detours through the summer and into October.

“We highly recommend drivers follow the detour in place or find alternative routes to get to downtown Portage,” Payne said.

Brad Conrad