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Plans in progress for 8th Street upgrades
The city is considering closing the median on 8th Street between Brennans and The Swiss Colony Outlet. (Times photo: Marissa Weiher)
MONROE - In December, Board of Public Works members heard a report from Fehr Graham, an engineering company, which outlined needs for each area of traffic, from light signals to the necessity of a roundabout at 6th Avenue West and 8th Street.

The city hopes to have designs finalized and bids from different companies in hand by the end of February. Barring any obstacles, work is to begin in March or April and major construction would be finished before Green County Cheese Days in September. Landscaping and smaller pieces would be finalized by the end of October.

Meetings with business representatives which may be affected by the changes still need to take place. City Administrator Phil Rath said unless objections include a significant negative effect on the business or there is a glaring oversight in the plans, the city should remain on schedule.

Study results deemed a roundabout at the intersection of 8th Street and 6th Avenue West an "unwarranted" project based on the number of accidents that occur in the area. The majority of accidents that do happen are low-level damage.

The expense, roughly $1 million, was seen as unjustifiably high by a Fehr Graham analysis. The study found that the safety level makes the addition of a roundabout at the base of the hill as a replacement for the current three-way stop configuration an unnecessary cost.

Expansion of the right curve along 8th Street which turns on to 4th Avenue West has been planned. The change is in response to problems for semi trucks turning right. Limited space means drivers are generally turning on to 4th Avenue West and taking up more than one lane as they turn, causing cars turning left onto 8th Street or continuing through the lights along 4th Avenue West to reverse in order to be safe. The longer curvature should combat that issue, according to Fehr Graham recommendations.

Newly placed traffic lights will implement more interconnectivity. Traffic signals will be updated at the 1st Avenue and 3rd Avenue intersections. At 4th Avenue West, they will be replaced. Instead of a lone car waiting for an entire cycle of light changes, engineering supervisor Alan Gerber said, the traffic signals will "talk" to each other rather than switch along timed intervals as they do now.

Turn lanes will also change. At both 4th and 3rd Avenues, the lanes will be changed from through/left to through/right to accommodate traffic flow results from the analysis.

Another change still being considered is the possibility of closing the median between Brennan's and the Swiss Colony outlet along the 700 block of 8th Street in order to create a left turn lane from 8th Street onto 8th Avenue. However, there has been no decision made on whether or not it will be modified.

The scope of the work will include reconstruction of the pavement, curb and gutter along 8th Street. Width expansion of the street will be limited. While the road is torn up for the changes, there will also be work done to improve sewer and water pipes in need of upgrades.

The project is part of the capital plan to make improvements throughout the city. Discussions are ongoing as to the funding source of the project. Either bonding, or state and federal grants will be used for the project.

Gerber estimated that changes to 8th Street will be the first substantial work to the pavement since the early 1980s.