DOT Concedes Part of Ephraim’s Highway Plan

Approaching a Nov. 1 deadline for Ephraim to submit its highway project plans to the DOT, the village board hasn’t decided whether it wants sidewalks, curbs, gutters and reconfiguration of parking.

If the project does include these reconstruction measures, it is likely the village will be dealing with two construction seasons instead of one.

Minutes from a July 13 meeting between village officials and 22 Department of Transportation (DOT) employees from different departments in the agency detail the final negotiations between the two groups. According to village president Mike McCutcheon, verbal commitments on things such as lane and shoulder width earlier in the year were modified when DOT received the village’s first draft of plans, putting the village in limbo regarding how to plan projects beyond the resurface of the highway.

With a better understanding of what the DOT will allow, the village now hopes to gather estimates for sidewalks, curb and gutters before making a decision within the next six weeks.

“We’re now handing the engineer and the state a whole different scenario that we would have to get those answers for,” said McCutcheon. “We don’t have that data yet but we will get it.”

In the minutes from the meeting with the DOT, compiled by project manager Jeremy Ashauer, the department indicates it does not believe the village will be able to put together a plan by the deadline, suggesting the project will be split into two instead.

“It is not likely that the village’s proposed work can be completed concurrent with WisDOT’s resurfacing project in 2019,” wrote Ashauer in the minutes. “It is unlikely that the village’s design would be able to meet this schedule due to the steps of the design process.”

“If we go through with this project [anything in addition to resurfacing], we would have it as a separate standing project,” said McCutcheon.

Should the village choose to include more than resurfacing, the DOT will resurface everything through downtown Ephraim except the section between the beach and the fire station where the village is exploring the possibility of a sidewalk and stormwater infrastructure. The village can then complete its additional project including finishing the resurface. The DOT resurface is scheduled for 2019 and McCutcheon said the village project would likely not be done until 2020. Although the DOT would not be doing the resurface between the beach and fire station, it would reimburse the village for what it would have spent on that stretch of road.

Negotiations between the village and the DOT resulted in some agreement on changes to DOT standards. While the DOT was unwavering on requirement of 12-foot lanes instead of 11-foot lanes, the department will allow for a two-foot paved shoulder on the water side of the highway. That change could make it possible for the resurface project to take place on the existing roadway without encroaching on any property and minimizing tree loss.

There is still a deep divide on the necessity of constructing sidewalks along the highway, but the village will seek cost estimates.

Village administrator Brent Bristol said the village will not have to fund a complete engineering study or sidewalks. Once the village receives estimates, they will discuss funding options and whether they want to construct sidewalks, curbs and gutters.

There was unanimous support for addressing groundwater concerns primarily between the wetlands and the Ephraim Fire Station. Fred Bridenhagen, property owner along Hwy 42 and German Road, urged the board to address broken culverts and stormwater drains before the state begins its highway resurface.

“This is really our only chance to get the stormwater done,” said Bridenhagen. “Once that road goes down it’s highly unlikely we’re going to do anything. It’s imperative we come up with a plan and get ahead of the state on this thing.”

Bristol said the state will provide funds for replacement of three culverts, but the village believes as many as six will need to be replaced to adequately address groundwater concerns.

According to the timeline set by DOT, the village will need to make a financial commitment to any construction beyond a resurfacing by Nov. 1. Final plans would be due Aug. 1, 2018 and 90 percent of the plans would be due March 1, 2018. DOT officials do not think the village will be able to keep up with this timeline due to the planning and engineering process, but the village will begin seeking costs for the project anyway, keeping the possibility of completing the village’s project alive after the DOT comes through the village.

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