Much to the relief of Veronans who found themselves sitting in traffic the past few years, fewer major road projects will make it easier to get around.
There will still be construction around Verona, but mainly buildings and developments scattered throughout the city. There will be less road construction than in previous years, with only one road being resurfaced and other work consisting of chip sealing and maintenance, city public works director Theran Jacobson told the Press.
The most significant road work is on the west side, where access roads and other improvements near the new Verona Area High School have been under way for months and should be finished by the time school starts in September.
In the Town of Verona, County Hwy. PD from County Hwy. M west to Woods Road is being expanded. An asphalt rehabilitation project will take place in the city on Northern Lights in June.
The only bike and pedestrian project planned this summer is adding rapid flashing beacons at high-traffic sites, including near Military Ridge State Trail and the future Badger Ridge Middle School (the current Verona Area High School).
The most significant road construction in the area is rebuilding part of McKee Road in Fitchburg. That is the last piece of the state Department of Transportation’s seven-year Verona Road project.
The largest construction project is the new high school, entering its last few months. This summer, the $160 million campus, which at the time was part of the largest school district referendum in state history, is expected to open for staff to prepare for the start of the 2020 school year.
Other schools will look like new because of the facelifts they’ll receive this summer.
Three of the district’s buildings – what is currently the high school site, the high school’s K-Wing and Badger Ridge Middle School – will all receive age appropriate renovations this summer to accommodate younger grades of students, Findorff project manager Aaron Zutz said.
The spread of coronavirus could have an impact on the subdivisions being built, city administrator Adam Sayre said. While construction has been deemed as essential business during the “Safer at Home” order, some developers are reconsidering their timelines for building.
Veridian Homes, the developer for The Woods at Cathedral Point is taking a second look at when the project would start. The city approved that 51-acre development off Range Trail in February.
Forward Development Group has also planned to start the first phase of Sugar Creek Commons this spring, two years after its original target. That multimillion-dollar taxpayer-supported project features two retail/apartment buildings close to West Verona Avenue and a hotel.
Farther west on Verona Avenue, Market No. 5, a 29,000 square foot retail development that includes a Summit Credit Union, is also well underway on the city’s west side, and a Kwik Trip on Half Mile Road not far from it plans to start this year, Sayre said.
Epic also plans to add two buildings to its Storybook campus, bringing its total to seven. There are four other office building campuses on Epic’s property.
Residential projects include the Lincoln Street apartments across from the Verona Area Community Theater building, which are almost done and expected to start leasing by the summer, Sayre said.
The Kettle Creek North development, a 174-unit subdivision on the city’s north side, near Country View Elementary, still has homes going up, with phase 3 potentially starting this year.
The 200-acre Whispering Coves development on the city’s north could break ground in spring, and the Hometown Grove subdivision across from Glacier Edge Elementary School is finishing its third phase.
Verona Road enters last phase
This year marks the last round of construction Veronans and other travelers will see on their trek northward to Madison for a while.
The $251 million project has plagued Verona travelers with slow commute times to get to Madison in the past few years as crews reconstructed and widened Verona Road from the Beltline to just south of McKee Road, making the highway three lanes and adding an overpass at McKee Road and an underpass at .
The project, which will make McKee Road three lanes each way between Commerce Park Drive and Fitchrona Road, is split into four stages.
The first will be median work for future traffic pattern changes; the second phase will shift all traffic to the westbound lanes on the north side of the road. The third will switch traffic over to the eastbound lanes on new pavement; the final phase includes median work.
Two lanes each way will remain open throughout the duration of the project, minus lane closures in non-peak travel hours from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. to 5 p.m.
PD lanes take shape
County Hwy. PD west of County Hwy. M will start to look a little bit more like the road to the east this year.
The project, which started in August while the PD/M intersection was being finished, will widen the road from a two-lane rural highway to a four-lane divided roadway, with improvements at both the Hwy. M and Woods Road intersections. The project is being funded by the county and the City of Verona, as its boundary extends up to Hwy. PD with the Whispering Coves subdivision.
The third phase of the project, which extends through July, will include the construction of eastbound lanes south of the existing lanes. Once those are finished, traffic will be switched onto the new paved lanes while the existing roadway will be ripped up and repaved through September.
After the westbound lanes are finished, work in the medians will be finished in October, when all work is scheduled for completion.
VAHS down to final months
The largest building project in the school district’s history is on schedule to be finished on time.
Zutz said his crew is working on finishing touches inside the high school and looking to be finished by June 5.
“Right now, the high school’s coming along very well,” he said. “It’s very exciting to see things come into place … it’s an exciting time in the project.”
Throughout the rest of the site, Zutz said there is remaining work that could extend into summer, including work on the track, fencing, paving and landscaping expected to be finished by fall.
The new campus, on 161 acres on the west side of the City of Verona, contains a new set of auxiliary facilities, a 55-acre forest known as Stewart’s Woods the district purchased in 2017 and access to the Military Ridge State Trail.
Road work around the high school site includes improvements on West Verona Avenue near the high school, construction of a second access road, named Wildcat Way, and a bridge over the Military Ridge State Trail.
Among the new facilities are football and soccer fields with artificial turf, two pools (one for practice and community use and the other for competition), on-site baseball and softball fields for the first time, a greenhouse, a 2,500-seat fieldhouse and a performing arts center that pushes the building height to 65 feet – taller than anything in Verona other than Epic’s Wizard’s Academy campus.
The 343,000 square foot building features geothermal heating and cooling and is designed to accommodate solar panels and electric car charging stations. It’s also been designed to accommodate future expansion of up to 300 more students.
Zutz said the spread of coronavirus hasn’t affected the schedule for completing construction on the high school, but it has led to employees changing how they work, including social distancing and encouraging people to stay home from work if they feel sick.
“We certainly are very cognizant of it with all of our employees and following CDC guidelines to make sure everyone is able to work safely,” he said.
District sites get renovations
It’s a little more complicated to turn middle and high schools into elementary schools than just moving the signs.
Zutz said his Findorff crew will be remodeling the office area and converting technology education and music spaces in Badger Ridge to be kindergarten rooms for Sugar Creek Elementary School when students arrive in September. The kindergarten rooms will all get connected bathrooms, as well as an additional set of bathrooms near the kindergarten classrooms. Zutz said other bathroom renovations will also be done to make them more usable for younger children.
At the high school, similar remodeling is set for Badger Ridge middle schoolers and Core Knowledge Charter School students, who range from grades K-8. Some of that work will also include new HVAC systems to allow for air conditioning.
The K-Wing building, which will house New Century School and Verona Area International School next fall, will undergo the same age-appropriate remodeling, but also get extensive work done on the air system.
“Those systems in that building are kind of reaching the end of their life cycle, so it’ll be a lot of work to replace those,” he said.
Verona could see some serious growth to the north of the city starting this year.
The Whispering Coves subdivision would include space for condominium-style housing, apartments, commercial space and a school. It would expand the city north toward Hwy. PD.
As far as Sayre knows, Forward Development Group is planning to start building this spring, with homes going up as early as this fall.
“However, once again, asterisk on every single one of these,” he said, noting that COVID-19 could push back the timelines for any of the city’s subdivisions going in.
If Veridian Homes chooses to keep the current timeline for The Woods at Cathedral Point, the city could start seeing new construction there starting this spring. Nestled at the corner of M and Range Trail on the south side of the U.S. Hwy. 18-151 bypass, the subdivision would include 257 houses on 51 acres and include three multi-family housing units.