Businesses on West Milwaukee Street that are weathering the Milwaukee Street bridge replacement have another squall on the horizon.
But officials hope there will be minimal disruption for those businesses in 2021, when the city is scheduled to begin a reconstruction of Milwaukee Street from near the new bridge to the edge of Five Points.
The public can learn more about the planned West Milwaukee Street reconstruction project from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall. The community forum will give residents and business owners a chance to offer their opinions, Senior Engineer Matt McGrath said.
Consultants from Baraboo-based MSA Professional Services will attend the forum to share details. McGrath estimated the design phase is 60% complete, leaving room for tweaks.
After the project is finished, West Milwaukee Street will look similar to Main Street. It will emphasize pedestrian-friendly elements and have an aesthetically pleasing appearance, he said.
That includes semicircular seating, additional benches, landscape planters and small trees. There will be no bike lanes to maximize the amount of planter space along the terraces.
West Court Street has bike lanes two blocks to the south.
Traffic signals at three intersections will be replaced with stop signs for north-south traffic. Vehicles on West Milwaukee will have the right of way, McGrath said.
These intersections will have “tabletop” pavement that raises the level of the road.
“I wouldn’t call it a speed bump, but it’s a noticeable ramp that will require you to slow down,” McGrath said. “Slower traffic is more pedestrian-friendly and safer.”
Construction is scheduled to begin in spring 2021 and finish by fall. The project is estimated to cost $5.1 million. State funding could cover some of the costs, he said.
It will be completed in two phases, working from east to west. That will keep half of the project area open to vehicles at all times and lessen the burden on nearby businesses, McGrath said.
Business owners and representatives from Downtown Janesville Inc. have regularly attended project planning meetings.
McGrath and Downtown Janesville Inc. President Kathy Voskuil are aware of potential negative impacts to businesses, similar to how some shops and restaurants have said the ongoing bridge replacement has reduced customer traffic.
Planning meetings have kept business interests at the forefront. Construction work could cause temporary setbacks, but infrastructure upgrades and other downtown projects will be a net positive, Voskuil said.
Some of the reconstruction will pass by storefronts that have been vacant for years. The improvements could attract newfound attention to the area, parts of which have long looked weary.
“When the project is done, it will look very attractive,” McGrath said. “With that, we hope that spurs some interest in citizens purchasing vacant buildings and opening up some kind of store.”