Stevens Point looks to involve public in redesign of Business 51

STEVENS POINT, Wis. (WSAW) -- The City of Stevens Point is asking residents and businesses to get involved in redeveloping Business 51.

Business 51 is set to get an overhaul (WSAW Photo).

The makeover for the 3-mile stretch of road is still years away, but the city is looking for a group of stakeholders to give their insight on what the road should look like.

The stretch is currently an undivided four-lane roadway.

Tori Jennings, alder for District 1 who lives in the neighborhood, says right now, Division Street does just that-- it divides neighbors and businesses on either side.

“I walk and bicycle a lot. It’s a very difficult street to get across. Undivided four-lane roadways are a design very much of the past,” Jennings said.

The new Business 51 would fix physical issues with the street and better accommodate everyone using it, including students, children, bikers and drivers.

Jennings says the plan involves “re-configuring it for the kinds of traffic patterns and traffic users we have today.”

She says the current configuration makes for speeding and accidents.

“Division Street is a gateway to our community, so it should be a beautiful street. It should be a street that’s calm and safe for people to travel on. It’s not that way now. I’ve had many encounters myself where I’ve almost been hit,” she said.

The city approached this project back in 2012, but state funding was used to build the Hoover overpass instead. This time around, the city is working with engineering firm AECOM, and Mayor Mike Wiza says all options are being considered.

“Everything is on the table at this point. Some of them are probably least likely. We rely on the Department of Transportation guidelines, we rely on the engineers we hire to provide us options based on the public input,” Mayor Wiza said.

Mayor Wiza said the plan could involve the city acquiring some of the land around Division Street. Jennings believes the city should work to redesign the road with the land that exists.

“I will be advocating that we work within the existing footprint,” said Jennings.

For public input, the city is in the process of forming a group of 20 people and businesses to be stakeholders.

“Hopefully, nothing is one-sided to lead us in a certain direction, but hopefully we’ll have open discussion to see what we have before we go out into the public and say, ‘Ok, this is what we’ve heard,’” said Scott Beduhn, director of Public Works.

The project is going ahead now because, as Beduhn says, “The cost of the improvements aren’t getting any cheaper.”

Funding hasn’t been secured for a long-term fix yet, and that phase will come after public input, he said.

The city is anticipating getting a wide variety of opinions about what should be done with the road, including both expanding and narrowing it. Business 51 was already redone in Whiting and Plover.

Beduhn encourages people to reach out and give their input. The Department of Public Works can be reached at (715)-346-1561 or here .

The public will be able to give their input in a survey going out in March and during a meeting in May, the details of which are unknown right now. Construction likely won’t start until at least 2023.