Wausau board gives green light to change application for Business Campus Trail project

Damakant Jayshi

The Wausau Streets Capital Improvements and Maintenance Committee on Thursday approved a change in the scope of the Business Campus Trail project in the city’s application to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

The project proposes a multi-use trail through Wausau’s Business Campus that would connect downtown to the entire region while serving as an amenity for existing businesses there. The proposed trail connects the existing trail on Innovation Way with a future north-south trail along 72nd Street and would connect to future developments on Stewart Avenue, providing a bike and pedestrian path connecting the entire western half of the city to downtown Wausau and the region. The 10-foot-wide path aims to reduce conflicts between bicycles, pedestrians and heavy trucks, while providing recreation in a largely auto-oriented area.

Engineering Department staff recommended a change request be submitted for the portion of the trail from 72nd Avenue to 84th Avenue. The estimated cost for this stretch would be $2.22 million, with the state’s Alternative Transportation Program accounting for about $1 million and Wausau costing just over $1.2 million. Construction work will not begin until 2025, and staff have said that if the revised plan is approved, they will move forward with the design phase of the project.

In a letter to the CISM Board and during Thursday’s meeting, engineer Thomas Niksich said the preliminary grant application was submitted before bids were opened for the 72nd Avenue trail and that the estimated construction costs were calculated based on estimates during the design process provided by the city’s consultant – Kapur & Associates Inc. from Milwaukee. But the consultant’s estimates appeared to be far from that.

“The actual bid prices for the 72nd Avenue Trail were much higher than estimated, primarily for the boardwalk and waterfront related items,” Niksich wrote. “The proposed trail has approximately 650 feet of boardwalk, so the updated construction cost is much higher than what was submitted with the grant and the terms of the grant are less favorable.”

The original trail, from Packer Drive at 72nd Avenue to Innovation Way, was more than 9,000 feet long. The city’s share was valued at just over $250,000 of the $1.25 million total, with the TAP grant covering about $1.5 million. But a revised assessment of the 9,423-foot track showed drastically changed numbers, with the city’s share now calculated at more than $3 million of the $4 million total. The WisDOT grant is unchanged.

That prompted the reduced scope, Niksich said, adding that WisDOT is open to such changes. He said the request must be submitted and approved. Out of four submitted options, with the original proposal practically unworkable, the commission chose the 72nd Ave.–84th Ave section.

Board members agreed to proceed in phases and voted 4-1 to move forward. Alder Doug Diny, who wanted the project delayed, voted against the proposal.

The Business Campus Trail was not without controversy. The project has divided Wausau City Council members over the issue of using eminent domain to purchase land for the trail. This issue was discussed at the Commission meeting last February and the city pledged to work with property owners on the recreation trail project.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *