Late summer road construction projects on four downtown streets brought better roads but challenging disruptions for businesses and residents.
Even for places downtown that didn’t have construction directly in front of their buildings, like the Stoughton Senior Center, transportation was difficult during the Aug. 19-30 shutdown of five blocks of West Main Street.
Combined with torn-up roads on Jackson Street, Lincoln Avenue and Monroe Street – Lincoln Avenue and Jackson Street going past their initially planned deadline by a month – some businesses found their traffic much reduced.
The Main Street construction, which some business owners were unaware of until two weeks before it began, finished on time, even with an unexpected expansion, city planning and development director Rodney Scheel said. At one point, three underground crews and a utility crew were working on the five-block radius simultaneously.
However, with the pressure to finish Main Street construction on time, the Monroe Street construction was delayed.
“I felt that we succeeded in trying to minimize the duration of time (on the Main Street project) but acknowledge that there were certainly inconveniences,” Scheel said.
And the Jackson and Lincoln projects went a month past their projected end date, mostly because of subcontractor availability, increasing the stress for some area residents.
Scheel said although the city can put milestones in the contract with general contractors, those are not always met, said Scheel.
“That is a frustration that we share; to stay on schedule,” Scheel said.
Stoughton Sweet Shoppe owner Todd Barman said he is still dealing with effects from both Main Street and Monroe Street construction.
Although Main Street opened to traffic more than a week earlier, Barman’s Main Street parking lot was still inaccessible as of Tuesday, Sept. 10, because of an unfinished sidewalk. While the Monroe Street entrance was open, there were barricades surrounding the entrance that he said confused customers.
Barman said the Strand team, an engineering consultant hired by the city, has been communicative and is also frustrated by the lag in progress. He had no complaints with that interaction but said construction has affected his business.
“Our walk-in traffic is way down,” Barman said.
For senior center case manager Tanya Kelly, the challenge was getting to her clients’ apartments for in home visits.
Specifically, the construction near Jackson and Lincoln, where several senior center residents live, created an inconvenience. Staggering construction, or allowing access for medical purposes would have relieved the frustration, Kelly said.
Senior center director Cindy McGlynn said although its patrons weren’t happy about multiple construction sites near the center, they still found their way. She said the city and mayor were in good communication with patrons.
Some businesses affected directly by the Main Street construction project, such Stoughton Tire and Auto, Home Savings Bank and Thrivent Financial, were initially concerned customers would not have access to their business.
Overall, owners said the construction team did a good job allowing customer access and keeping businesses informed about how construction was progressing.
“(The construction crew) always made sure stuff was parked to the side of the street so I didn’t have to be worried about being parked in,” Thrivent Financial financial adviser Mike Niedfeldt said.
TJ Goldade of Stoughton Tire and Auto said the project manager came to the shop regularly and at the end of construction spoke with Goldade about the upcoming 2020 Main Street project, with partially closed lanes from Hoel Street to Page Street.
“I have no complaints whatsoever,” Goldade said.
Sandy Quam of Home Savings Bank said her customers got construction relief a day early.
“(Construction crew) opened up our side of town early,” Quam said. “We were open Thursday rather than Friday.”