Small budget limits road improvements but Public Works soldiers on

Crews start reconstruction process on North 3rd Ave.
Crews start reconstruction process on North 3rd Ave.(wsaw)
Published: Apr. 19, 2021 at 7:30 PM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - The two biggest projects of road construction season began today. Sections of North 3rd Avenue and South 5th Avenue are getting completely reconstructed.

“We have more than I can count that need to be completely reconstructed but given that it takes money to do these reconstructions, we can only do so many at a time,” said Project Engineer T.J. Nicksich.

The Director of Public Works and Utilities says that only $1.5 million is allocated yearly by the city for full road reconstruction, and it takes about $1 million to do one mile.

“I mean when you look at it we have essentially almost a $90 million backlog of our streets that should be reconstructed, and you know, that doesn’t include water and sewer,” Director Eric Lindman said.

That’s more than triple the $25 million backlog that News Channel 7 reported just two years ago.

In order to make the most of the money budgeted, they often choose projects where they can address more than one need at a time.

“The infrastructure underneath the road also drives our priorities and what we’re doing as far as our annual budgets and what streets are going to be reconstructed,” Lindman said.

That’s the case with this year’s two big projects.

“The utilities underneath are, I believe 75 to 100 years old, so we’re going to replace those while we do the road. It’s just a cost-saving mechanism,” Niksich said.

The utilities that will be replaced include the sanitary sewer lines, storm sewer lines, and water main.

They’ve also been able to re-allocate money from other projects. Starting last year they contracted out the process of sealing seams in the road with tar instead of doing it themselves.

“We’ve shifted away from that and contracted that out and we’ve taken that in-house money and put it towards our hot mix budget and so we’re doing a bit more paving in-house in smaller areas and patches and things like that.”

Many smaller projects are also planned for the year, like asphalt overlays, concrete repair, and striping.

Lindman praised his engineers and crew and said they’re doing their best to smooth the ride on Wausau’s roads.

“We get calls frequently about poor roads, doing maintenance, things like that. But I think for the most part the public’s aware we’re doing what we can. But it’s still frustrating for them, you know,” he said.

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