As street jobs go, few will be as disruptive to downtown traffic flow as the full removal of the road surface and sidewalk up and down the seven-block stretch of West Milwaukee Street.
The immediate saving graces are few, but the long-term boon is this: Businesses and residents will see the results of the first major streetscape revamp of downtown’s main east-west thoroughfare in years.
The other saving grace: The project will be broken into two pieces, which will allow side streets and parts of West Milwaukee Street to remain open during about seven months of construction slated to start March 22.
Designers and contractors who are tackling the massive tear-up and replacement gave businesses an overview Tuesday of when work likely will roll past their storefronts. Business operators also got details on how they might plan around some of the disruptions.
In the virtual meeting, Jon Olinger, an engineer with Beloit’s RH Batterman, and Chris Nothem, a Rock Road Companies project manager, said they will begin giving business operators weekly updates on the project’s schedule and upcoming closures.
Here are some questions the project team, city officials and a downtown business liaison answered.
Q: What is the timeline of this project? When will parts of West Milwaukee Street close and reopen?
A: For the first leg of the project, West Milwaukee Street between River and Jackson streets will be closed from March 22 through July 1. The second leg of the project runs from early July through Oct. 15, Nothem said.
Despite the tear-up work that starts at River Street just west of the Milwaukee Street bridge, the bridge itself will remain open to traffic and pedestrians headed across the Rock River for most of the project, Olinger said.
Jackson and River streets—two major cross streets—are slated to remain open except for two separate two-week periods during which those streets will be closed for rebuilds of intersections and pavement finishing.
Q: The project includes sidewalk and water and sewer infrastructure replacement. When does that work happen, and how can people reach business storefronts?
A: Olinger said the project team plans to email business operators a weekly update each Thursday that will lay out the coming week’s schedule.
He and Nothem said most sidewalk work that will disrupt access to stores will occur later in both segments of the project. Businesses will get 48-hour advance notice of water shutoff for utility work or sidewalk removal along their section of street.
Olinger said most sections of sidewalk will be restored within “72 hours” of removal, and crews will work with businesses that don’t have rear access to set up temporary bridges so people can enter and exit.
Q: What about parking during the street tear-ups?
A: Mick Gilbertson, a downtown property owner who is a liaison between businesses and the project team, said the tear-up will temporarily eliminate about 29 parking spots between River and Jackson streets and about 50 spots when the project moves west of Jackson Street to the Five Points intersection.
Gilbertson and Matt McGrath, a city engineer, said a private owner of the former First National Bank parking lot at West Milwaukee and North River streets is making some spots available as two-hour public parking during at least the first half of the project.
Some spots in a city lot at the southeast corner of Franklin and West Milwaukee streets also will be marked as two-hour public parking.
Gilbertson said Downtown Janesville Inc. and the downtown business improvement district are working on plans for signs to show parking access and help direct pedestrians to walking routes and crossings so they can reach local businesses.