By Brandi Makuski
The Village of Whiting is one step closer to finalizing several details for the upcoming remodel of Bus. 51.
The phased project will come to Whiting in late 2018, according to the Wisconsin Dept. of Transportation, widening both northbound and southbound lanes. The remodel will also produce bicycle lanes and sidewalks on both sides of the road, and install LED lighting on a new center median.
The project also includes raising the causeway over McDill Pond, which Village President Paul Stroik said would allow for pontoon boats launching from the Whiting boat launch on the west side of the road to utilize the east side of the pond.
WisDOT is paying for the bulk of the project before handing roadway ownership to the village, similar to the agency’s agreement with the Village of Plover — Stevens Point took ownership of its portion of Bus. 51 several years ago — and officials from Whiting only need to approve some construction-related options available to them.
The Whiting Public Works and Parks Committee has approved underground electric wiring for homes and businesses along the corridor, similar to what was chosen by the Village of Plover, where the project’s first phase was completed last November.
Stroik said most properties along the road already have underground wiring, but the committee’s decision would make it uniform.
“In the case of some individual properties, there may be additional overhead compared with others,” Stroik told the committee. “As far as the charge, that would be between [property owners] and WPS, but there are very few that are affected.”
The committee also approved installing a new Rapid Rectangular Flash Beacon (RRFB) for a planned pedestrian crossing in front of the boat launch. The crossing will help anglers and sightseers reach a new fishing pier on the east side of Bus. 51 overlooking McDill Pond.
But one village trustee said she worried the beacon would create more problems for safety.
“If you’ve driven through the [RRFB] lights at the YMCA, (corner of Franklin and Division streets in Stevens Point), the person in the inside lane doesn’t necessarily know the guy in the outside lane has stopped for the flashing,” said former Trustee Carol Lepak, adding she believes a third beacon should be placed on the center median.
Stroik said the project only called for two beacons — one on either side of the roadway — and they were visible to both lanes of traffic in each direction. But he also said there’s no way to predict how much use the crossing, or fishing pier, would see until it’s actually installed.
“But since the DOT is paying for it anyway, the village might as well take advantage. It comes down to responsibility of pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists,” Stroik said. “The only way to prevent something from happening there is to install a gate — and somebody’s still probably going to run through there. Sometimes, you just can’t prevent stupid.”
An additional flash beacon will be installed at the Bus. 51/Cedar Dr. intersection, Stroik said, which is heavily used school children and other pedestrians.
The committee’s choices still need approval by the village’s Finance Committee.
According to the village’s website, the Finance Committee last met in November 2016. At press, no date for that committee has been set.