DOT, Michaels will begin James Street reconstruction in Columbus in March

February 23, 2017 GMT

COLUMBUS—Fasten your seatbelts, Columbus. It’s going to be a bumpy year, at least for anyone who wants to drive through town.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation and its prime contractor, Michaels Construction, will be reconstructing James Street (Highway 16/60), from the bridge on River Road all the way down to the Industrial Drive/Dix Street intersection.

The project, which the DOT is breaking down into four stages, is set to start March 6 and won’t be completed until October.

“We’re going to reconstruct the street from the bottom up,” DOT project manager Dave Pilon told a group of local business owners who got a final overview of the project on Monday night. “Everything’s going to be new.”

That includes a new concrete street with bike lanes and ADA-compliant sidewalks, improved intersections with new traffic signals, a re-aligned Manning Street where it intersects with James, new street lights, and a new sanitary sewer, water main and storm sewer.

Stage 1:

March through June

The project will begin with trees being cleared. (All trees have to be removed by April 1 while the northern long-eared bat is hibernating, per state and federal protections, Pilon said.) Meanwhile, the contractor will start work on Stage 1: the section of James Street between Ludington Street and River Road.

During Stage 1, Highway 16/60 will be closed at the bridge, and the official DOT-signed detour will take drivers around Columbus on Highway 26 north through Juneau, then west on Highway 33 to Beaver Dam and finally back south on Highway 151.

Pilon acknowledged that it was a long detour, but he said the DOT has to keep traffic, especially heavy trucks, on state highways.

“We know the locals will take other routes,” he said.

The entire intersection of James and Ludington streets will be replaced, with work being done in two halves. The east side of the intersection will be done first. One lane will be open on Ludington Street (Highway 73) while work is being done, with temporary traffic signals being set up and traffic flowing through from one direction first and then from the other.

Stage 2: June through October

When all of the Stage 1 work is completed, that portion of Highway 16/16 will be reopened, and workers will move on to Stage 2, which will encompass the remaining section of James Street, from Industrial Drive/Dix Street up to Ludington Street.

When that section of Highway 16/60 is closed to through traffic, the official DOT detour will be much shorter, taking drivers through town on Highway 73 and then back north on 151.

Where James Street is four lanes, the Dix Street side will be reconstructed first, with all traffic flowing on the opposite side of the street. On Dix Street itself, traffic will be initially routed onto the Culver’s side of the street, while workers construct the Kwik Trip side.

Stage 3: June through October

Once work is completed on both sides of Dix Street and on the eastbound side of James Street, traffic and construction will flip.

When traffic starts flowing on the new pavement, that side of the street will be wider, and traffic woes should ease, Pilon said.

On Industrial Drive, work will initially be done on the bank side of the street while traffic flows on the Walgreens side.

Stage 4: October

During Stage 4, workers will be constructing islands on the end of James Street by Dix Street/Industrial Drive and Highway 151.

A small “orphan” piece of old roadway — between the new project and the work that the DOT did last summer to improve the intersection of Highways 16 and 60 — is currently scheduled to be redone in 2021. Pilon said if the state has money available earlier, the DOT will try to advance the project.