It’ll be a little bit easier to get around Verona than it was last year.

But as the road projects affecting Verona wind down, there will still be several public and private construction projects around the city.

While there aren’t going to be the major road closures within Verona like last year’s disruptions on South Main Street and County Hwy. PB, getting to Madison on major highways will become difficult and remain so for several months.

The County Hwy. M upgrade, the largest project within city limits, is scheduled for completion by November and is likely to get occasional closures.

The Verona Road construction northeast of the city, meanwhile, entered the second leg of Phase 2 earlier this spring, which will bring the completion of a bridge over McKee Road and a tunnel under Williamsburg Way in the fall and some lane closures along the way.

One of the city’s largest parks is also getting a facelift, just in time for the summer season. After shutting down in early September last year after Labor Day, Fireman’s Park is expected to be ready to open in mid-June with splash pads, a new park shelter, and new playground equipment.

While work continues on the $160 million new Verona Area High School, it will include the beginning of the second access road the city and school district debated and negotiated over last year.

Private construction is expected to include the Festival Foods grocery store and a UW Credit Union, both on Hometown Circle off of East Verona Avenue.

City planning director Adam Sayre said all the new development, especially the retail space and the apartment complex going up across from Verona City Center, will bring more people into the city.

“I think Festival is definitely going to be a draw for people,” he said. “I think also on the west end, when that commercial (plaza) is built and the high school is done, as well, that’s going to have a pretty drastic impact, too.”

Any bike and pedestrian projects completed this year won’t result in closed-down streets and asphalt reconstruction like they did last year.

City public works director Theran Jacobson said the city completed the most complex of the projects during the summer and early fall months, those being the addition of sidewalks and multi-use paths on both the north and south sides of Hwy. M south of Locust Drive, a sidewalk on Locust Drive and medians in the roadway throughout to assist pedestrians with crossing what can be a busy corridor.

“The ones identified this year are smaller ones,” Jacobson said.

Those projects will include an asphalt connection from Reddan Park to the Prairie Heights neighborhood to give people in that neighborhood a direct entry point into a “heavily used” park, Jacobson said.

Hwy. M nears completion

The expansion of M from two to four lanes began in the fall of 2017.

By Nov. 1, crews expect to have reconstructed it from Cross County Road in Verona to Prairie Hill Road in Madison.

The $55 million project is in Phase 3, which involves complete reconstruction of the existing roadway and the building of bridges that go over the tunnel created at the intersection of Hwys. M and PD.

That tunnel, part of an unusual intersection configuration, was designed to accommodate thousands of drivers traveling to Epic each morning on the city’s western edge.

When the project is done, Jacobson said, M will also have bike lanes on the western side of the road up to the roundabout at Pleasant View Road in Madison.

Other road work

While there are fewer high-profile projects happening than last year, the city will still be busy, Jacobson said.

“This year, it seems like on a project-scale, there’s not as many projects, but there’s a lot of projects going on,” he said.

Public works started putting in a “short segment” of a sidewalk this week in front of the Post Office’s drop-off lane parallel to Enterprise Drive and will be repairing other sidewalks around the city.

The annual road rehabilitation projects include William and South Jefferson streets, William Circle and Schweitzer Drive just east of downtown, Jacobson said. Those roads will receive complete reconstruction, including gutters, sewers and full asphalt replacement.

Public works will also be sealing roads around the city, including Cross Country Road and part of Old PB south of Whalen Road, as well as in the Kettle Creek area, Jacobson said.

Fireman’s Park

Fireman’s Park should be ready for use by the season opening date of June 19, city parks director Dave Walker told the Press earlier this month.

The new shelter is done, and what remains is some of the concrete work and the construction of the splash pad just west of the park shelter. Crews also need to install playground equipment this spring.

Walker said contractor KSW Construction has weekly progress meetings with the parks department. They informed him the tough stretch of winter weather at the end of January and beginning of February didn’t have much of an impact on the construction timeline. The more than 30 inches of snow sub-zero chills resulted in the shutdown of the site for a few days.

“They’re telling us that they’re in good shape to meet the present deadline,” Walker said.

Verona Area High School

The location of the second access road off to the new high school, off of Nine Mound Road, has been a contentious point in the new high school’s progress.

Bids are still out, and a decision by the school board is expected in the coming months, with construction of that road likely to begin later this year.

Jacobson said the school site will eventually have pedestrian and bike paths that connect the second access road to the rest of the city’s infrastructure in the future as a part of the road construction process.

Sidewalks will also be built on West Verona Avenue from Nine Mound Road to West End Circle as a part of the high school project, Jacobson said.

Festival Foods

One of the most notable private projects is the Festival Foods grocery store, which is expected to open in October, Sayre told the Press.

Construction equipment started moving dirt in March, and are currently grading the site.

The grocery chain’s plan for a 67,000-foot store was approved by the Common Council earlier this year after its original plan expired. Sayre told the Press last year the delay came after the De Pere-based company overextended its expansion plans.

Market No. 5

Another project that was delayed was for a different reason – the construction of the high school.

West End Market No. 5, on the west side of the city, plans to bring three buildings totaling 29,000-square feet of retail space. Developer Steve Brown Apartments, which owns the buildings between it and the high school, is planning to start construction toward the end of 2019, Sayre told the Press.

The project, which will be built in front of the West End apartments near the intersection of West Verona Avenue, Epic Lane and Hwy. 18-151 on-off ramps, was delayed due to concerns over “construction fatigue” from apartment residents, who are watching the new high school go up to the south of them.

Other private projects

The UW Credit Union on East Verona Avenue began last winter and is expected to be done within a few months, Sayre said.

The building is being built where a Dairy Queen previously stood for almost five years before it closed last April.

On the city’s southeast side, Sayre said Attainment Company, which creates special education curriculum for students with disabilities, is expected to be starting construction on a new facility in the Liberty Business Park within the month.

There might also be activity at the Sugar Creek Commons on West Verona Avenue, Sayre said, but the project depends on an agreement between the city and the developer over taxpayer financing.

The redevelopment project’s design has been approved, with apartments, a 110-room hotel and 26,000 square feet of retail space over what is now a former truck stop, automotive repair shop, car wash, volleyball court and apartments just east of Legion Street.

Bike and ped projects

After completing four of the bike and pedestrian projects at once last year, the only one that will be finished is No. 9, which extends a paved path north of Reddan Park.

It will connect the Prairie Heights neighborhood to the soccer fields and the Ice Age Trail further to the east.

The goal of the bike and pedestrian projects, introduced in 2016, was to encourage walkability and cycling throughout the city while reducing traffic congestion and protecting the environment.

Jacobson said the design process for other bike and ped projects will begin this year, such as a path extension from County Hwy. M along the Badger Mill Creek, which would connect over to the Lincoln Street bridge, if not further. That project would be coordinated with the sewer replacement project Public Works is planning, Jacobson said.

But there’s significant constructability issues anywhere east of the Lincoln Street bridge, Jacobson said, because of environmental factors like poor soil and wet conditions, where flooding is a concern.

“But where it goes from there to the east is a … discussion and decision that needs to be completed internally, and at the committee and council levels,” he said.

Email reporter Kimberly Wethal at kimberly.wethal@wcinet.com and follow her on Twitter

@kimberly_wethal.