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Highway 45 exit ramp at Watertown Plank Road closed for the summer

April 2, 2014

They never really went away during the depths of winter, but as spring sets in, orange barrels and cones will be sprouting up with growing frequency along Watertown Plank Road.

This week, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation increased its construction activity along one of Wauwatosa's busier stretches of roadway, particularly near the Highway 45 interchange.

DOT crews officially shut down the southbound Highway 45 exit ramp to Watertown Plank Road on Monday. The southbound ramp joins a list of other closures that have been in place near the interchange.

"There's no shortage of orange in the area," DOT Spokesman Mike Pyritz said. "We've got a real bumper crop of cones and barrels in the area."

As with any construction project, Pyritz said, the timeline for completing this year's work along Watertown Plank Road will be fluid and subject to revision, depending upon weather conditions.

DOT documents call for the Highway 45 entrance and exit ramps, and stretches of Watertown Plank Road, to begin reopening in late summer and into the fall.

Pyritz described work along Watertown Plank Road as "a complex project." The crux of the work involves the Highway 45 interchange. DOT crews are reconstructing and reconfiguring the exit and entrance ramps so it will be a so-called free flow interchange that will eliminate traffic signals.

But the state agency is incorporating a number of new features to the surrounding area, including a pedestrian bridge that will connect the Ronald McDonald House to Children's Hospital of Wisconsin. A number of aesthetic improvements also are in the works, including decorative stone features.

Most of Watertown Plank Road will be repaved with new asphalt. Additional work includes the installation of new storm sewer equipment in the area — an effort to better accommodate heavy rainfalls.

With a number of county-owned amenities — including the Milwaukee County Regional Medical Center — near the heaviest area of construction, state, county and city leaders have been promoting alternate methods of accessing sites in the area.

Pyritz said work related to Swan Boulevard and the newly constructed Discovery Parkway — a roadway tied to the University of Wisconsin's Innovation Center — was strategically completed to accommodate diverted traffic in the immediate area.

For motorists frequently using Highway 45, the DOT is encouraging alternate interchanges at Wisconsin and North avenues. Other options for traversing the area include Bluemound Road and Wisconsin Avenue.

Although Watertown Plank Road construction is largely a state-initiated project, City Engineer Bill Wehrley said local municipal efforts also have been planned to piggyback the work. The city is installing new storm sewer near Watertown Plank Road, west of North 115th Street.

"We've been working closely with the DOT throughout this project," Wehrley said. "We've held a number of meetings together to help inform people of what's been happening."

Wehrley said the city is spearheading two grandiose projects in other areas of the city.

A reconstruction project along most of Milwaukee Avenue will kick off soon. Depending upon this year's construction season, Wehrley said, work could extend into next year.

Also, reconstruction of North Avenue — from as far west as Wauwatosa Avenue to as far east as North 60th Street — is expected to kick off in early July.

Stay informed

■ For ongoing information about the Watertown Plank Road work, visit the DOT's website, Projects.511wi.gov/web/zoo-interchange-project.

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