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North Avenue shutdown is delayed

Closure period will be shorter than expected, city says

Oct. 3, 2012

North Avenue, originally scheduled to be shut down at 90th Street on Monday, has been given a reprieve until mid- or late October, and the closure of the street, one of Wauwatosa's most vital blood lines, will be shorter than originally forecast, City Engineer Bill Wehrley said.

For a couple of weeks already, the avenue has been reduced to one lane in each direction.

North Avenue was expected to be closed for six to eight weeks, but that estimate has been reduced to four to six weeks, Wehrley said.

"The end date is staying the same, we're just delaying the beginning of the closure," he said. It should be done "around Thanksgiving."

Businesses in the work area will be open and accessible, Alderman Jeff Roznowski said, but through-traffic will be re-routed. For cars, the tentative detour will be north on Swan, east on Center Street, and south on Wauwatosa Avenue (76th Street), back to North.

For trucks not making deliveries to businesses in the North Avenue corridor, the route will go up Mayfair Road to Capitol Drive, east to Wauwatosa Avenue and back south to North Avenue. This may be modified, as construction may be under way along the detour route.

A massive undertaking

The North Avenue work is part of the $14.4 million Meinecke Avenue flood mitigation project, undertaken after a June 2009 flood caused basement backups in 500 homes, with 140 of them afflicted with four feet of water in the basement, according to city officials.

Wehrley said it may be the largest public works project the city has ever undertaken.

Massive new water mains, and sanitary and storm sewer mains are being installed on Wright Street, 86th Street and Meinecke Avenue. The water collected there will flow through new lines south along 90th Street, crossing North Avenue, all the way to a new gate at the Menomonee River.

"We will have it open for the Thanksgiving to Christmas retail season for the businesses," Roznowski stressed. His 6th District includes Meinecke Avenue.

Some work already done

Important parts of the project will have been completed by the end of this week. In particular, the intersection at Swan Boulevard and the Menomonee Parkway will be open by Friday, and the bike path, which had been dirt to that corner, has been paved and is accessible.

Wehrley said work on the sewers will continue through the winter, with paving undertaken in the spring. The entire project should completed by next summer.

Roznowski said the closure of North will be shorter than expected because the contractor will bore under the street instead of opening a trench across the entire intersection. The street will still have to be closed when the water mains are installed.

The project has involved cooperation between the city, the school district (McKinley School is on Meinecke), the county, the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District and Milwaukee County Transit, which will have to re-route buses during the work, Wehrley said.

In return for access to the river across the county-owned parkway, "the county requested the repaving of the parkway, the extension of the bike trail and new handicap ramps at (the intersection of) Swan and Menomonee River Parkway," he said.

Trying to be efficient

There was a segment of storm sewer at 91st Street that ran underneath the pavement, "and we didn't want to pave over something in poor shape, so that was replaced as well," he said.

Replacing the traffic lights at Swan and the parkway was in the "long-term forecast," he said, but installing new sidewalk ramps over old wiring didn't make sense, so the wiring and the signals were replaced ahead of schedule.

The sewer line work brought the project into the intersection, which involved reconfiguring a sewer around MMSD lines.

"It's a very, very large sewer project," Wehrley said. "It certainly isn't the normal magnitude we would do when we repave the street. And with such large pipes come significant challenges, in terms of getting the pipe in, and getting the equipment in, and excavations of the depth and size that were required.

"Our contractor has been doing a great job, and he's ahead of schedule, which is in everybody's interest."

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