The good news is, the Meinecke Avenue Sewer Project is overall ahead of schedule.
The bad news is that some parts of it aren't.
Motorists will be pleased to know that, yes, Menomonee River Parkway south of Swan Boulevard will open well before West North Avenue closes at North 90th Street. The parkway is slated to open late Friday or early Saturday, said City Engineer Bill Wehrley.
More relieved than pleased, perhaps, will be the residents of 90th Street north of the parkway, who for the most part were unhappy with the whole idea.
Wehrley said that repaving 90th, beginning at the parkway and progressing north, will start as soon as the parkway is open. That is well ahead of the project timeline, with all the big pipe – 9- and 10-foot sections – already tucked underground.
Business district's worst fears could be realized...
Less please, though, may be merchants along North Avenue, because some changes in plans could, as they feared, delay the closing of their street – and also, of course, its reopening – perhaps into the beginning of the holiday season.
Wehrley said Thursday that after meeting with contractors in the morning, he still couldn't say exactly when and for how long the avenue will be shut down, but it was looking like it could take until Thanksgiving, and depending on the weather, could take longer still.
"After talking to the contractors this morning, it's still sort of soft," Wehrley said. "The closing will be some time from mid- to late October, and it will take four to six weeks."
In the best case, "That could take us up to about Thanksgiving," Wehrley said. "But this is a season we can get lots of rain, and that can shut them down. Of course, it hasn't hardly rained at all, but it's got to come sometime."
"If it's bad weather," Wehrley said, a pre-Thanksgiving opening "is going to be hard to hit."
And thanks to the 2012 calendar, Thanksgiving comes as early as it possibly can this year, on Nov. 22. (The holiday falls on the fourth Thursday of the month, and Nov. 1 is a Thursday.)
... as biggest sales season of the year looms
In the worst case, that all makes for a bad prospect for business. As Wauwatosa Patch reported in an earlier story, owners and managers of retail outlets along North Avenue were a bit worried about the holidays even under the original projected closing.
They were told that North would close Monday, with a best-case reopening roughly a month later, or the first week of November. Even then, though, Wehrley warned them that a longer closing, up to six weeks, was possible, taking reopening nearly to Thanksgiving.
Since then, though, contractors determined that the work might take longer than that, and made a new estimate of six to eight weeks.
Hoping to cut that down, it was decided to install the sanitary sewer line under North and 90th by directional boring instead of trenching, before following up with the big stormwater pipe.
That cut the closure time back to the original projection – but the boring moves the start time back as well, and the result works out to about the same.
Now, contractors would have to cruise through their work in minimum time to make the Thanksgiving deadline, and any delays would eat into the most profitable time of the year.
November and December are the biggest sales months for most retailers, with the week after Thanksgiving and early December being the biggest weeks of all.
Shoppers looking to get to the North Avenue business district from the west might be stymied enough to stay to the west – at Mayfair Mall – and those coming from the east toward Mayfair will not pass through the district west of Wauwatosa Avenue to get there.
Closed, opened, closed, opened
As a final irony, Wehrley said that one of the bright spots – the opening of Menomonee River Parkway – will be extremely short-lived.
After it opens, late Friday or early Saturday as mentioned, it will shut down again almost instantly – but, whew, for only three hours.
Wehrley said the Walk to End Alzheimer's is scheduled from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, and with 3,000 participants predicted. The route of the walk is from Mount Mary College to Hoyt Park and back, and with that many people out, the parkway will be closed – but it will reopen and stay open immediately afterward.