Minocqua was the location for major highway reconstruction work along U.S. Highway 51 in 2013.
More major work lies ahead for the highway in Minocqua and also in Woodruff for 2014, along with reconstruction of County Highway J between Highway 51 to Highway 47.
Reconstruction of Highway 51 in Minocqua in 2013 extended from just north of the Island to near McDonald’s. That’s where the work will pick up again in 2014 near the intersection of highways 51 and 70 West and extending north to near the intersection of highways 47 and 51.
Robin Stafford, project development supervisor for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT), said bids will be let for the projects in February. He calls the work planned “ambitious.”
“It’s the contractor’s option as to when he wants to start the project,” Stafford said. “We will have kind of the same stipulation we had for this year’s construction where they have to have most of the work on Highway 51 done by July 1.”
According to Stafford, the project includes some side road work including the moving of Packing Plant Road farther to the east to behind where T.J.’s Butcher Block is now located.
“That building will be torn down,” Stafford said. “They will be allowed to work on that part of the project (Packing Plant Road) after July 1, but anything to be done on Highway 51 has to be completed before July 1. The stipulation will be that the entire project must be done by the end of August. The 70 West intersection will have to be done prior to July 1.”
Projects for 2014
According to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation area highway reconstruction work by the state in Vilas and Oneida counties in 2014 will include:
• Oneida County; U.S. 45 – 16.33 miles from U.S. 8 to WIS 32, pavement overlay; U.S. 51 – 1.59 miles from U.S. 8 to County, concrete pavement repair; U.S. 51 – 0.66 miles in Minocqua and Woodruff, reconstruction.
• Vilas County; U.S. 51 – 8.02 miles from County H to County W, pavement overlay. U.S. 51 – Spider Lake bridge, bridge maintenance/repairs; U.S. 51 – 7.29 miles from County M to County H, resurfacing.
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation has still not made a final recommendation on the proposed reconstruction of a proposed four-way intersection at the intersection of highways 70 West and 51 in Minocqua as part of the upcoming reconstruction of Hwy. 51. State officials have proposed having the intersection remain as a three-way intersection.
Gregg Walker and Bob Long, co-own the property where the El Mez Mexican Restaurant is located and where Pizza Hut was formerly located. They want to have a four-way intersection constructed where the two highways meet. They also want to have the work done in conjunction with the upcoming reconstruction of that portion of Hwy. 51 which will occur in 2014.
Walker is the publisher of The Lakeland Times and the owner-publisher of The Northwoods River News.
Walker has been working for nearly two years to gain the approval of WisDOT officials for his request because once the reconstruction work in the area is completed, as is currently proposed by the WisDOT, any motorist wanting to access the El Mez and former Pizza Hut property will have to use a route that does not directly access that property.
Walker has said Dunkin’ Donuts wants to lease the property where Pizza Hut was formerly located. The building was razed after being heavily damaged by fire, but Walker and Long said they will have a new building constructed at the site to house Dunkin’ Donuts and a few other possible businesses.
To remain three-way intersection
“Obviously having a four-way stop there would benefit our property, but the biggest reason for having a four-way stop there is that it will improve the safety conditions at that location,” Walker said.
Stafford said as of Dec. 10 the current three-way intersection at Hwy. 51 and Hwy. 70 West will remain that way and will not see access increased to four directions.
“We’ve analyzed that intersection several times and we have traffic counts for there,” Stafford said. “We are adding some left turn lanes for northbound to west bound traffic and we’re going to keep the dual lefts from eastbound on 70 to northbound on 51. We are changing some of the ramps, not so much on the southbound, but on 70 we are going to have the through lane on 51 North, also with the dual lefts.
“We’re bringing it up to our design standards – we’re looking at traffic volumes out 20 years,” Stafford said.
Stafford emphasized that the county project on Hwy. J cannot be started until after the state completes its reconstruction of the 51/J intersection.
According to Stafford, there will be significant changes completed on the intersection of Hwy.. 51 and Hwy. J.
“We’re going to fill in some of that area and will bring the roadway up which does fill in some of that bowl there,” Stafford said. “There will still be a depression there, but the property owner there wants to do some (additional work), but we don’t know yet fully what the property owner is proposing or thinking about doing.”
Stafford said once the 51/J intersection reconstruction is complete motorists will see a major improvement.
“That intersection will be wider because we will have added some additional lanes to operate a little bit better,” Stafford said. “We’re adding a left turn, a through and a right turn lane there. That will mean the removal of a storage building the town of Woodruff owns near the cemetery.”
The state project also calls for installing new and larger storm sewer lines that must be completed
County’s Hwy. J project
According to Oneida County Highway Commissioner Freeman Bennett, work on reconstructing Oneida County Highway J from Hwy. 51 to Hwy. 47 could begin in the fall of 2014 and possibly extend into spring 2015.
That project will include reconstruction of the J and Hansen Road intersection. This can’t be done until after the state completes reconstruction of the 51 and J intersection because they will be installing much larger storm sewers. Storm sewers will then run from the Hansen Road intersection of 51 and J where the new larger storm sewers will be located. Curb and gutter will only be installed from that intersection to U.S. 51. The town of Minocqua’s Packing Plant Road will also be moved farther to the east away from 51 so drainage issues at that location can be eliminated.
In 2015, a 0.66 mile section of Highway 51 is to be reconstructed in Woodruff at a cost of at least $3 million. The highway will be reconstructed on the existing alignment, including curb and gutter, sidewalk and storm sewer.
Joe VanDeLaarschot may be reached at email@example.com.