City plans to cut ribbon as West Milwaukee Street opens fully on Friday


October 21 – JANESVILLE – When asked what he thought it would be like Friday when the landscape outside his printing plant on West Milwaukee Street is finally cleared of construction equipment and torn pavement, Todd Duckworth said concocted a semi-ironic joke:

“Which street?”

It can be hard for some to remember that West Milwaukee is actually one of the main thoroughfares in the city center, given that parts of the street have been closed to traffic since early spring.

And before that, there had only been a few months since fall 2018 where West Milwaukee Street was not at least partially blocked by a State Transportation Department street construction project or another.

Most downtown traders attribute heavy rains and river flooding in 2018 and 2019 as the main reason a $ 5.7 million project to replace the West Milwaukee Street Bridge took several months late.

The bridge was eventually replaced and has been open for over a year, but the overshooting of this project squeezed the entire project schedule on West Milwaukee Street, from Rock River in the west to the Five Points intersection.

Meanwhile, a global pandemic has spread, disrupting street and sidewalk work. Some retail store owners said they saw foot traffic drop by as much as 80%, while others who run service companies, such as Duckworth’s Minuteman Press, said they were not seeing the project affect very much their businesses.

Today, Friday night, the town of Janesville is hosting a block party for Duckworth and other merchants along West Milwaukee Street to celebrate the end of what has been, for some, a street work marathon.

With Ribbon Cutting Friday, the West Milwaukee Street celebration will take place from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. and will include speeches from local, state and federal officials, a vintage car show, a children’s carnival and free apple cider.

Then the street will officially reopen.

Paul Murphy, a West Milwaukee Street owner, said he looks forward to Friday’s celebration, a ribbon cutting planned in the western half of West Milwaukee Street between Jackson Street and Five Points. This four-block segment has been cordoned off for replacement since July, while blocks closer to the West Milwaukee Street Bridge were replaced earlier this year and reopened to traffic in midsummer.

Murphy has retail tenants along the spur which was replaced this summer. But another West Milwaukee Street property he owns, a former funeral home he is renovating into apartments just west of Janesville Town Hall, sits smack in the middle of blocks that have been closed to traffic for decades. weeks.

Murphy was working to fill a trench in the parking lot of his future apartment adjacent to where Rock Road had cut a new water pipe to the entrance to his parking lot.

Anyone working on street projects in Janesville this year has been spurred on by unusually dry weather, unlike the wave of wet weeks in 2018 and 2019 that hampered street work.

Murphy said he believed the West Milwaukee Street project construction team – local design firm Batterman and local contractor Rock Road Companies – had not only benefited from favorable weather conditions this construction season. .

Compared to contractors who worked on other recent street demolitions in the heart of downtown Janesville, the West Milwaukee Street team seemed to do a better job communicating with traders in the construction zone on a daily basis, according to Murphy.

For example, he said, the team learned from observing another street replacement project along North Main Street five years ago that many downtown storefronts still have underground vaults. which extend to the street and which had to be filled.

On West Milwaukee Street, the contractor and architect worked to identify the location of all vaults before the project began last spring.

“You didn’t have any interruptions or surprises midway through the project that you weren’t prepared for,” Murphy said.

He said the West Milwaukee Street business community seemed to embrace advance planning as well. Groups responded to street closures this summer with several sets of hand-painted artistic directional signs showing people how to walk to stranded businesses.

Murphy and Duckworth said that after a few consecutive years of construction, traders expect to see no more barricades, cones, construction barrels and plastic fences blocking the main thoroughfare on the west side of downtown .

In addition, the project is close to being completed without any significant delays along the way.

Near a large white banner that spans the 300 block of West Milwaukee and praises the ongoing revitalization of parts of the thoroughfare, a landscaping team was planting new trees on the patio Wednesday after- midday.

Labels on the saplings indicated their variety as victory elm trees.

Miguel Carreon, one of the crew, said the tree plantations were part of the finishing touches on the streetscape along West Milwaukee.

Is it a victory?

“You bet,” Carreon said.

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