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For the people of Racine who insist on driving their cars, the summer of 2018 continues to be an exercise in frustration.

A major refresh of Douglas Avenue continues to make access to cross streets, homes and businesses difficult to impossible. And a fresh new project brought blocks and blocks of closed intersections and narrowed lanes to Racine on Monday as work got underway on Washington Avenue (Wisconsin Highway 20).

On paper, the work to remake Douglas Avenue from Hamilton Street to Goold Street is scheduled to be completed in November. It kicked off in April. Except, it really got going a year ago, as prep work along the 1.2-mile artery got underway.

The improved thoroughfare will feature new sidewalks and what the Wisconsin Department of Transportation calls “updated bicycle and pedestrian accommodations.”

During construction, Douglas Avenue traffic has to be limited to southbound only. Northbound traffic has been detoured around construction via Main Street and Goold Street. Southbound traffic on Douglas Avenue is detoured down to State Street. WisDOT provides more information on the project on its website.

Businesses feel the pinch

Patty Lemke, owner of Dusty Treasures, a thrift shop at 1709 Douglas Ave., between High Street and Hagerer, has watched her business trickle down to almost nothing during the project.

“We’ve been open for three years, and business was beginning to pick up,” Lemke said. “But last Friday we had no sales. I’ve gone down to three days a week. It’s difficult to be open when no income is coming in.”

Lemke owns the building that features her shop and has a renter in an apartment upstairs. She has a parking lot in back of the building, but it is difficult for people, including her tenant, to reach during the construction.

Last summer, when road prep work was beginning, the state or someone (Lemke is not sure) provided directional signs showing the way to affected businesses. Lemke had modified the provided sign, placing it on her own sandwich board. She was able to reuse the sign this summer, but the signs for other businesses did not reappear, Lemke noted.

“The Lutheran thrift store down the street closed, probably for the rest of the construction,” Lemke said. “It seems like the city could give the businesses along Douglas a property tax break for the two years of the construction.”

‘On schedule and progressing’

Despite looking like an unorganized, random mess, the project is proceeding according to its original plan, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation stated.

Dan Sellers, the WisDOT spokesman for its southeast region, reported: “The project is currently on schedule and progressing as planned.”

“There haven’t been any significant complications with the project,” Sellers said. “It may rain a day or two, but the project team finds ways to keep the project moving forward and on schedule.”

The project is tracked using the Critical Path Method that employs software to follow and coordinate the duration of operations. It is continually updated, Sellers said.

“We understand that construction can be a bit of an inconvenience, but there haven’t been any major complaints,” he said. “We have had some good outreach with (the city of) Racine, and a good plan in place to safely deliver the project as efficiently as possible.

When asked if tackling the the street project a few blocks at a time would have been less disruptive, Sellers responded: “Performing the work in shorter segments actually decreases the project’s productivity. The current set up allows the contractor to address multiple aspects of the project at once, helping to get it done quicker.”

Now it’s Washington Avenue

On Monday WisDOT began a project to resurface Washington Avenue (Wis Highway 20) in the city of Racine. The project will resurface approximately 1.5-miles of roadway from West Boulevard to Marquette Street. As part of the project, new curb ramps will also be implemented throughout the corridor.

During construction, Washington Avenue will be limited to eastbound traffic only and westbound traffic will be detoured around construction using nearby alternatives.

In later stages of the project, eastbound traffic will need to be temporarily detoured between 12th Street and 13th Street. Heavier truck traffic will be detoured.

WisDOT said the contractor plans to complete the $1.4 million project by this fall. The schedule of work is weather dependent and subject to change. More information can be found on the project website.

But wait, there’s more

On Thursday, there will be lane closings on Durand Avenue (Wisconsin Highway 11) in Sturtevant as Canadian Pacific Railway performs maintenance repair work on its railroad crossing located between County Highway H and 90th Street.

Lane closures are anticipated to begin after 9:00 am with lanes to reopen before afternoon peak travel hours. WisDOT stated: “To safely complete this work while also maintaining traffic flow, travel lanes will be reduced to single lanes in each direction utilizing traffic shifts. Please note that this closure is weather dependent and subject to change.”

For construction project news and travel time updates, use 511wi.gov.


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Rex Davenport

Rex Davenport is a reporter, editor and editorial project manager with more than 40 years of experience in newspaper, business magazines and other content channels.