La Crosse Street project sees movement after WisDOT meeting

City officials and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation are looking at ways to avoid a $22 million total reconstruction of La Crosse Street. The two parties met this week in an effort to come to an agreement about the extent of the work and how it could come together sooner than anticipated.

La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat said the meeting was arranged to express the need for reconstruction for the entire connecting highway, but to also hear about alternatives.

“What we’re going to be looking at is a bit modified approach,” Kabat said.

The city is still planning on completely reconstructing a four-block area from Hillview Avenue to Losey Boulevard in 2019.

“We have to replace that section. That can’t wait,” said Bernard Lenz, utilities manager for the city.

The utilities underneath the section would be completely replaced.

“These utilities are aging and are starting to fall apart. Our manholes are really bad, inlets are really bad,” Lenz said.

The city is trying to coordinate with the DOT to do all the work at one time. The city would pay for the new utilities but the DOT would foot the bill for the new road.

If the two can’t coordinate their projects, the city could get stuck paying for both. Lenz said the city has money set aside for the utility portion but it doesn’t have enough money for the roads too.

“That would result in rate hikes and we can’t come up with that kind of money,” Lenz said.

Now, the department has to see which utilities can be reinforced to last longer without opening up the entire road. If the portion of La Crosse Street from Hillview Avenue to Fourth Street also needs to have its utilities replaced, the total project could cost near the $22 million estimate.

“Maybe we can replace some of the manholes, some of the catch basins and leave the older pipes in place for now,” Lenz said.

While there’s no formal agreement, the mayor was pleased to hear that WisDOT will consider moving construction earlier, potentially to 2021.

“We’ll keep trying to build upon that dialogue and that relationship,” Kabat said.

Michael Bie, a spokesperson for WisDOT, said in a statement, “w e are looking forward to continuing to work with the city on improvements to La Crosse Street. W ork between the DOT and the city will be ongoing toward the finalization of the project scope and schedule.”