In the best of all possible scenarios, Wauwatosa is looking toward six years of road construction that will make this year's widespread street, sewer and utility work look like a picnic.
Detours and delays involved in the Mayfair Road reconstruction, the Meinecke Avenue Sewer Project and other public works will pale in comparison to the impact of the upcoming Zoo Interchange Project, once it begins in earnest in 2013.
But that massive project is something the city and its business community have actually sought for many years — modernization of the busiest freeway interchange in the state.
Now, though, after years of planning and a completed design, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and Gov. Scott Walker say there simply isn't enough money in state transportation coffers to complete the work as scheduled, by 2018, and it might have to be stretched out two to three years farther, to 2020 or '21.
Feeling that eight to nine years of construction is more than Wauwatosa businesses and institutions can abide, city staff have drafted a letter for Mayor Kathy Ehley's signature to go to Walker and Wauwatosa's legislative delegation. The letter asks that every effort be made to budget for on-time completion of the Zoo Interchange Project.
After all — even though the project is of regional and even statewide scope in the grand scheme of things, almost all of the actual work is in Wauwatosa, with a few bits and pieces on the edges of West Allis and Milwaukee.
The letter requests that "the upcoming (DOT) budget contain sufficient funds to maintain the previously proposed schedule for the much-needed Zoo Interchange Reconstruction."
The letter cites the following reasons:
- "Delay of the project will result in increased overall costs due to inflation."
- "Pushing back the timetable for the Zoo Interchange will subject Wauwatosa residents to unnecessary and prolonged traffic and construction impacts when compared to the original schedule."
- "The city has been working very closely with the (DOT) staff to ensure that the project will be well thought-out and coordinated. A last-minute delay will upset previously agreed upon timetables for both public and private improvements."
- "A delay will negatively affect the city's own schedule for capital improvements. Necessary funds for engineering and construction have already been expended for projects planned in 2013 and 2014. Moreover, as part of the city's capital improvements program for 2013-17, preliminary dollars for engineering have already been earmarked for the improvement of West North Avenue in 2018 in conjunction with the planned (DOT) work on the north leg of the Zoo Interchange. Further delays will increase the city's expenses for both maintenance and construction."
- "A delay in this important project will increase the (DOT's) maintenance expenses and extend region-wide construction impacts for an additional two years."
- "A two- to three-year delay in the Zoo Interchange Reconstruction Project will have a negative impact on economic development in Wauwatosa. There are projects planned at Mayfair Mall, Innovation Park, the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center and Milwaukee County Research Park that could be impacted by a delay in Zoo Interchange Reconstruction funding."
Ald. Don Birschel said last week that while nobody will enjoy the inconveniece of the project, everybody will enjoy the outcome — just as we enjoy a much-enhanced Marquette Interchange.
"I drove through the Marquette Interchange the other day, and it's done, and it was great," Birschel said. "The Zoo Interchange will be a trying time, but when it's done, it will be like that, a great benefit. But it needs to get done on time."
The work stretches the length and breadth of what is also the state's busiest and most concentrated commercial corridor — North Mayfair Road in Wauwatosa. As noted, it includes work in and around the Medical Center and Research Park, among the largest employers in the region.
The work reaches from end to end of Wauwatosa, south to north along its western side from Blue Mound Road to beyond Burleigh Street — a portal to the city that is about to be redeveloped with The Mayfair Collection and a new Meijer supercenter.
Mayfair Mall will, in the next two years, become home to a new Nordstrom department store, a regional draw. Innovation Park is just getting off the ground. And in fact the city-owned and financed Discovery Parkway through Innovation Park is also intended to be the detour for Swan Boulevard and Watertown Plank Road traffic to the Medical Center next year.
Also, the design of the Zoo Interchange Project has been negotiated between the DOT, Wauwatosa and Milwaukee County to take best advantage toward opening up more property for economic development. Delays in the project will mean delays in creating more space for taxable development to bolster local economies.
Besides Gov. Walker, a key player will be 14th District Assembly Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield), who now represents nearly half of Wauwatosa and has just been appointed a member of the potent Joint Finance Committee of the Legislature.
Kooyenga, who will begin his second term after being re-elected in November, is among just 16 members of the Republican-dominated Senate-Assembly panel that controls state spending.
Kooyenga, who is copied on the mayor's letter, could not be reached for comment Monday.
Rep. Dave Cullen (D-Milwaukee), who is not only in the minority party but is going out of state office as his term ends (he successfully ran for the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors in April), is also cc'd. Cullen may, though, project some influence through his County Board position.
Newly elected Assemblyman Rob Hutton (R-Brookfield) is not copied on the letter, as he is not yet sworn in after his win in November as representative of the 13th District, representing Wauwatosa's south side and the area where most Zoo Interchange construction will take place. Hutton, however, will be the one to most directly face the project as it begins, as ground zero of the the interchange is in his new district.
Click on any of the highlighted names or deparments above to send your message on the Zoo Interchange Project timetable.