By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Businesses raise concerns over 8th St. project
Placeholder Image
MONROE - Some people with a vested interest in commercial success along 8th Street voiced their concerns for the upcoming reconstruction project proposed for the street from 6th Avenue West to Wisconsin 69 during an informational meeting at Monroe City Hall on Wednesday.

Fehr Graham Engineering and Environmental outlined the plans to update 8th Street with new asphalt and sidewalks, replacement of sewer main and the addition of interconnected traffic lights. Jesse Duff, a local projects engineer with the company, shared the details of the project plan: Essentially from the Wis. 69 intersection to the entrance of Taco Bell along 8th Street will be updated; they will be ripping out pavement, curb and sidewalk; and a focal point will be to update pipes running underneath the street.

"When the city wants to redo water main, obviously they have to tear up the roadway," Duff said. "As a way to save some money, the city chose to do that during this project."

Goals of the project include a consistent sidewalk gradient along the length of the street and to create standard 11-foot-wide road lanes between the 300 block of 8th Street and Wis. 69/7th Avenue. When the project proceeds, Duff said the city wanted to ensure traffic not be impeded by the work, which means one lane of the street will always be open to drivers throughout the six-month construction cycle.

Plans include updating the sanitary sewer service to the area with a lining that goes into the existing pipes and expands like a balloon to coat the inner layer in new material. Duff assured the audience that though water disruptions may occur, they will last hours rather than days. Pavement running along 6th Avenue West from 8th Street to Walmart will also have the top two inches replaced.

Duff said in a study conducted by Fehr Graham along 8th Street, the traffic turning left onto 6th Avenue causes traffic to back up heading toward Wis. 69, and that they are also considering lengthening the Wis. 69 intersection median to extend and block off left turn access along the 600 block of 8th Street. He added that some planned changes could still be varied.

"We're here to hear your concerns," Duff said. "We want to get as much input as we can."

Cara Carper, executive director of the Monroe Chamber of Commerce, sat in the audience of more than a dozen people, most of whom were owners of businesses along 8th Street. Carper heard the plans and looks forward to updates in the area but did see how it could affect customers' interest.

"I think it will be great once it's finished," Carper said. "But you really do feel for the businesses."

Concerns by one business owner were centered around accessibility. Scott Oudinot, proprietor of McDonald's in the 400 block of 8th Street, believes traffic could be reduced by at least 50 percent for the six months of construction. With access only open along 6th Avenue, Oudinot said not only will people see less desire to try to access the restaurant but also to deal with the safety hazard several circles around the building will pose.

"They'll know the businesses are open, but the problem comes when people find it too difficult to get to the business," Oudinot said. "We're going to get clobbered if access is largely cut off. People are already not going to want to go to that area when the project starts."

Oudinot sees the plans to transition to updated sanitary sewer as an issue as well. Even if the water is cut off for a few hours within the day it will negatively impact a number of products his business offers, he said.

Sidewalk updates were also a topic of discussion among attendees and Duff. Attendees expressed interest in removing sidewalk from one side of the street in order to remove a safety risk and shared stories of dangerous conditions during winter months.

"Our sidewalks are a disaster," Oudinot said.

The McDonald's owner echoed issues shared by others. Oudinot said they hire a company to remove the excess ice and snow piled on the walkway when plows go through the area a number of times during inclement weather. However, Duff said there are certain requirements the plans have to abide by to keep in mind the conditions of the area for the next 20 years. He added that he does not have "too many safety concerns" by constructing the sidewalk to the curb along the 500 and 600 blocks of 8th Street.

A major sticking point for the audience was the lack of a timeline for the project. Duff said they are still unsure whether they will begin construction in April or wait until the same month next year. There is no set date in mind to make that decision.