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Road project discovers that federal agency moves slowly

New parkway is still waiting for EDA's OK

June 27, 2012

With a deadline looming to start construction, the city is ready to put the Discovery Parkway project out to bid - almost.

Wauwatosa is still waiting for authorization from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, the very organization that has awarded grant dollars for the road project and has required that shovels break ground by Sept. 9.

The Board of Public Works last week held a special meeting to give its permission to solicit bids contingent on the the federal government agency's OK. As of Tuesday evening, city officials were still waiting for word.

Road particulars

Discovery Parkway will be a half-mile city road through the Innovation Park campus on the County Grounds. It will connect Swan Boulevard and Watertown Plank Road. The project includes water main, storm and sanitary sewer installation.

Initial road designs in February drew comments from members of the Common Council that the road was too wide and the wall along the roadway too tall and extensive.

Since then, there have been many modifications, after a committee led by former interim mayor Eric Meaux looked at the designs and made recommendations to "soften it up so it's not so imposing," City Administrators James Archambo said. The wall was shortened significantly so it doesn't come so close to Watertown Plank Road.

The road may seem large, but it's one lane in each direction, with bike lanes on either side and space for parking near the new County Grounds Park. Medians with natural plantings will be constructed in the middle of the roadway. At the south end, there will be turn lanes to feed traffic into Watertown Plank Road.

Curves, a roundabout and a steep grade change should keep the roadway from becoming a raceway or shortcut, Archambo said, adding it was designed for a 25-mph speed limit.

Time sensitivity

Because the grant requires the city to start construction by September, the contractor must be chosen at the Common Council's meeting Aug. 7, the last one before its summer break.

The timeline becomes more important because Discovery Parkway is needed to accommodate traffic during the Zoo Interchange reconstruction project.

When Watertown Plank Road and the intersection are closed for construction, the new road will be used as an alternative route, especially for emergency vehicles traveling to the medical campus.

"You've got to have a way to get people to the hospital," Archambo said.

Discovery Parkway is one of two projects waiting for EDA authorization for bidding. The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Real Estate Foundation also is using federal grant dollars to build the technology accelerator building at Innovation Park.

The road and building should go out to bid and undergo construction simultaneously, Archambo said.

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