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Road work wearies business owners, more projects to come

November 14, 2012

After almost six months, the construction that bogged down East Milwaukee Street has finally been completed.  Unforeseen delays added almost two months to the project’s lifespan.  Local business owners agreed that the project needed to be done, but are glad it is over.

The goal of the public works project was to replace utilities along East Milwaukee Street, which were not replaced the last time the road was overhauled back in 1967.  Other streets in Whitewater were shut down and repaired, but the sewer systems being replaced for those were roughly 6 to 7 feet deep.  The sewers along East Milwaukee were almost 25 feet below the surface.

Public works director Dean Fischer says the extra work was necessary, and that by digging the sewers several feet deeper the city can remove two lift stations.

Sewage flows along streets and lift stations help carry materials to the top of hills so that it can flow down the other side.  Fischer says it costs between $250,000 and $500,000 to purchase and install a single lift station, and that estimate does not include maintenance expenses.

Project Details

  • Estimated cost $3.2 million, accepted bid $2.4 million
  • Construction started April 30th
  • Extension approved September 28th
  • Officially reopened for traffic November 2nd
  • Landscaping work completed November 12th

Time is money and for local business owners the extension of the construction project meant a decrease in business.  Jene Mills owner of Mills Automotive has been located on East Milwaukee Street since 2000, and she says her business dipped almost 30 percent over the summer.

Mills says she knew about the construction far enough in advance that she was able to save money to pay her bills, but that other businesses, which rely on traffic for business, did not have that luxury.

Mills also says that summer is typically a slow season for business because she loses about 11,000 customers when the university empties out for the summer.

The Eastsider Gas Station is owned by Mike Frawley and he says his business declined by almost 22 percent over the summer.  He says the decision to extend the project was a difficult one, but that all he could do was grin and bear it.

Fischer says the width of the street by the residential area was reduced by four feet to include bike paths, which removed on-street parking.  On-street parking remains in the commercial area.

Fischer says the city went to great lengths to provide the business owners with information and signage to inform people which roads were open.  Fischer says the businesses’ livelihood is just as important to the city as it is to the owners, and that he is well aware of the hardships they faced.  He tried to limit the disruption as much as possible.

Future Projects

  • 2014 Downtown Eastgate- Whitewater Street to Milwaukee Street
  • 2015 Clay Street Reconstruction Part 1- Dann Street to Esterly Street
  • 2016 Clay Street Reconstruction Part 2- Esterly Street to the roundabout
  • 2017 Milwaukee Street Reconstruction Part 2
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