By Jacob Mathias
For sale and closing signs have popped up in spades along Post Rd. in Whiting over recent months, as local companies prepare for next year’s major road construction.
The full $45-million Wisconsin Dept. of Transportation construction project will eventually encompass the entire arterial road through Plover and Whiting. Following it’s completion, WisDOT will turn over ownership to the respective villages.
“Business 51 is only one of a couple such roads left in the state [for reconstruction] and the state is trying to get it off their hands,” said Village of Whiting President Paul Stroik.
The first phase of construction, which ran from Green Ave. to Springville Dr. in Plover, was completed in November 2016.
The next phase of the project begins in July 2018, and will affect the section of road between Hickory Dr. and Minnesota Ave. Construction is expected to end in November 2019.
According to WisDOT, improvements to the road will include new sidewalks, wider roads, new bike lanes, raised center medians and dedicated turn lanes. As of now, sidewalks only run along the east side of the road but the new road will add a sidewalk along the west side. The improvements are expected to address safety and congestion issues as the road sees above average incidents of accidents as it is.
“When the state gets involved in building a project of this magnitude, what they’re looking at doing is projecting out x-number of years,” said Stroik. “At this point it isn’t really a serious issue. There are accidents and close calls. It definitely needs to be addressed…Let them do it the right way and we’ll take it over.”
Stroik said not everyone in the village was supportive of some aspects of the project including the medians and turn lanes and while WisDOT has their own guidelines on how they can construct the road, they were willing to negotiate where possible on these aspects. He said they were able to improve turn lanes and access points to make the area more attractive to new businesses when the road is completed. One median modification allows full-length semis to make turns on Business 51 without blocking any traffic.
“They’re always open. They listen to our concerns. They go back and they readdress the plans,” said Stroik.
The McDill Pond Bridge — also referred to as the “Bus. 51 Causeway” — will also be raised by a foot and the bridge deck will be replaced, allowing for fishing on the east side of the bridge.
The project’s price tag includes real estate and a number of long-time businesses along the road are preparing to close, change or move including the Book Look children’s book store, Post Road Pub and McDill Auto. Stroik said that businesses on the east side of the road are most affected. WisDot is still in negotiations with some of the affected businesses and a full list is not yet available.
“We’ll have a couple of years during reconstruction to know just what’s going to be left for us to work with,” said Stroik.
Full project details can be found at WisDOT.