Reconstruction of County Highway B will begin in May, according to information presented at a public meeting on Thursday, Jan. 30.
The 3/4-mile project will reconstruct the roadway from Euclid Avenue to the railroad crossing south of the city of Manawa.
The total cost of the project is estimated at $800,000, with 80 percent (about $640,000) paid through a federal/state grant.
The remaining 20 percent of the project cost will be covered by Waupaca County (about $120,000) and the city of Manawa (about $40,000).
The public voiced two major concerns at the meeting. One worry was concerning the proposed detour route; the other involved safety at a railroad crossing being too close to a stop sign.
“Why not run the detour on State Highways 54 and 22?” suggested David Behnke of Manawa. “The County Road BB route is not good for turning a semi.”
Waupaca County Highway Commissioner Dean Steingraber appreciated the suggestion. He noted there have been a lot of accidents at the B/BB intersection.
Manawa Mayor John Smith was worried about the Industrial Drive intersection being in violation of Wisconsin state statutes.
According to Smith, there is not enough room for a semi truck to legally stop at the stop sign without violating State Statute 346.45(1), which states: “The operator of … vehicles before crossing at grade any track of a railroad, shall stop … within 50 feet, but not less than 15 feet from the nearest rail of such railroad.”
Currently, a semi would be “hanging over” the tracks.
“We have made an improvement,” said Waupaca County Highway Commissioner Dean Steingraber. “It’s certainly not a perfect situation.”
He said that the roadway will be shifted to the north at that intersection.
Even with the extra room, Smith said the semi trucks would “still be violation by 19 feet.”
“Technically, vehicles driving on County B are not in violation,” Steingraber said.
Smith said that all of the city’s railroad crossings are a problem.
He reported it has been about 18 months since a train has used the tracks for a delivery to Sturm Foods. It was noted that the railroad officials claim there have been about 12 trains coming through Manawa within the last year.
The Canadian National Railroad has not made a decision on its tracks located in the city of Manawa, noted David Glodowski, vice president of Gremmer & Associates, Inc., the design firm for the project.
The railroad company’s options, according to Steingraber, include:
• Fixing the track to provide smoother crossings.
• Removing the ties and blacktopping over the crossings.
• Totally removing the tracks.
“It would be nice for them to make (a) decision,” Steingraber said. “It’s just not a good rail line – it is beat up and it needs work.”
He noted another option would be for the local governments to petition for railroad crossing exemptions. With this in place, the trains would be required to stop for traffic at the railroad crossings.
Smith was also concerned about pedestrian safety at the Industrial Drive intersection because of the curve.
“It is an unsafe intersection for semis and pedestrians,” he said. “It seems like we could have done something different.”
Smith asked why a roundabout wasn’t considered for that intersection.
“It is too expensive and there is not enough benefit for it,” Steingraber said. “This is what is best for the dollar.”
Four-way stops had also been considered, according to Glodowski.
Instead, the design includes turning and bypass lanes at the two intersections.
“We really tried hard to do something down by the railroad crossing,” Steingraber said. “The railroad would not go for another stop sign.”
It was also noted that the semi problem could be avoided if these larger vehicles traveled on the city’s designated truck route on Pine Street.
Emergency, local access
During the construction process, the Waupaca County Highway Department will try hard to keep County B open for local and emergency access.
To keep their response time at a minimum, fire trucks need to use routes without sharp curves, according to Manawa Fire Chief Rob Rosenau.
With most of the work concentrated on the Howard Street intersection, Steingraber agreed to keep the Beech Street/Butternut Road intersection open for emergency vehicles. He said that area would take a only few days to complete.
Early planning for the project began in 2002, according to Gary Barrington, who represents the Manawa area on the Waupaca County Board of Supervisors.
David Glodowski, vice president of Gremmer & Associates, Inc., said his company began design work for the project in 2006. At that time, he said it was to be funded 100 percent by Waupaca County.
According to Glodowski, a public meeting was held in June 2008 and the project was ready by 2009.
Most of the right-of-ways were purchased and utilities were moved in 2010-12.
Glodowski said the progress was slowed when grant funding became available through the Department of Transportation. This added more time for completion of the required environmental and design studies.
Barrington said the delay was good, because it brought more federal money to the project.
With funding finally approved, the Waupaca County Highway Department is ready to begin the project by the end of April or early May, Glodowski said. Final work on the utilities will be completed by April.
With the roadwork expected to take at least three months, Steingraber said the project should be completed by sometime in July.