Residents question need for sidewalk
Division Street project set for summer 2018
By Scott Bellile
Sidewalk additions and tree removals are causing concern for Division Street residents whose properties will be impacted by roadwork next year.
New London Public Works Director Jeff Bodoh, Waupaca County Highway Commissioner Casey Beyersdorf and project engineers educated about 15 attendees on the joint city/county reconstruction project during a public forum Feb. 23. The project is slated to begin after Memorial Day 2018 and conclude just before Labor Day.
Division Street, which is also County Trunk D, lacks sidewalks near the northernmost and southernmost ends. Once work is complete, the street will contain continuous sidewalk from Wolf River Avenue to Beckert Road on its west side and from Wolf River Avenue to Douglas Street to its east.
“I had one lady come in saying ‘My house is so close’ [to the site of the proposed sidewalk] and she was worried that people will be peeping in,” Bodoh told the New London Board of Public Works Monday, March 6, while recapping last month’s forum. “But it’s the sidewalk issue that seems to be the big concern for people.”
The city can legally construct sidewalks on the approximately 10-foot, publicly owned right of way situated behind property owners’ curbs.
“What’s the actual need for that sidewalk?” a Division Street resident asked Bodoh at the forum. “I mean, as a property owner I actually chose that section of New London to buy a house because it didn’t have a sidewalk.”
Bodoh said the city wants sidewalks available for pedestrians walking to Lincoln Elementary School, Emanuel Lutheran School, Day Care Center of New London or St. Joseph Residence.
The resident said he rarely sees people travel Division Street by foot. He questioned whether the sidewalk installations are worth the city’s money. The city will pay an estimated $956,000 for the project.
“It’s going to be taking a lot of our property away that’s going to be close to our houses,” a woman added. “And the thing of it is nobody in this town walks on the sidewalks. They all walk on the street.”
Division Street resident John Lee asked if the $354,000 Wisconsin Safe Routes to School grant that the city landed last summer would help fund the sidewalk installations. The grant encourages municipalities to build sidewalks along busy streets near schools.
“The thing is it’s a federal grant,” Bodoh said, “and if we applied [it] onto this project, it would bring the cost of this project up to the federal standards, which is quite a bit higher. And we don’t want to be adding that cost to this project.”
Division Street resident Scott Shaw asked how crews will account for the sudden change in elevation with the hill located near Oak Street when installing sidewalks. Bodoh said no plan is finalized, but options may include re-grading the land or installing retaining walls.
During segments of the project, the street will be closed to through traffic. Homeowners will be allowed access to their homes, but there will be days when they can’t park in their driveways.
The businesses on the south side of Division Street toward Beckert Road will remain accessible.
Situated within the right of way are 34 trees between Beacon Avenue and Evergreen Street that will be impacted by the project. Bodoh told the Press Star the city will determine which trees can be worked around and which will need to come down.
“We do want to work with an arborist to make sure we try to save as many as possible,” Bodoh said.
Bodoh said the parks and recreation department will consider replacing trees that come down, similar to when it replanted Wyman Street after its road widening project.
The project is taking place in order to address drainage issues and aging pavement.
The project will upgrade the storm sewer and sanitary sewer systems as well as perform minor water main updates. Parts of Division Street will also be widened to meet current city and Wisconsin Department of Transportation standards.
The 1-mile project is divided into three segments: Wolf River Avenue to Beacon Avenue, Beacon Avenue to Oak Street, and Oak Street to Beckert Road. It will move north to south.
The project will begin as early as April 2018 with a reconstruction of three blocks from Wolf River Avenue to Beacon Avenue. There will be new pavement and curb and gutter installed along with sidewalks constructed on both sides of the road where there are not currently sidewalks.
Then after Memorial day, from Beacon Avenue to Oak Street, crews will reconstruct the roadway to match the same width as the existing street. They will perform sidewalk and driveway replacement and put in new storm and sanitary sewer.
From Oak Street to Beckert Road, crews will add sidewalk to the west side of the street and recondition the road by milling and overlaying the asphalt. There will be no utility work here.
Phil Roberts, project manager with OMNNI Associates, said a new storm sewer system will be installed beneath Division Street to solve flooding problems. The current storm sewer system connects over to Algoma Street, and under the current setup Division Street sometimes floods.
“This is going to be corrected with this project,” Roberts said.