Gibraltar Using Three Ways to Pay for One Road Project

The Town of Gibraltar will get its Cottage Row Road project done using three different funding sources. 

The town estimated it would cost between $380,000 and $480,000 when it first designed the project, but with supply-chain crunches and labor shortages being what they are, the cost came in at $743,000 from the only bidder, Northeast Asphalt, headquartered in Greenville, Wisconsin.

The project, at a little over one mile in length, includes milling out the road three inches and then asphalting. The Main Street portion of the project will not be done at this time, and to save a little more money, the town sliced off about an eighth of a mile by starting at Cottage Row Court in the north to where the turnaround will be constructed at the bottom of the hairpin. 

This stamped-concrete turnaround has been designed to be aesthetically pleasing, yet functional, with some pink-paver design elements that allow grass to grow through but can withstand heavy truck traffic. 

“That’s the biggest problem we have,” said Travis Thyssen, town administrator. “Semis start downtown and back all the way in because they can’t get down the hairpin.”

Cottage Row Road is a narrow street between the water and the bluff, accessed on the north end from Fish Creek’s Main Street. From the south, the street connects with Highway 42 across from the Settlement Shops, but only a steep, hairpin curve that large trucks are prohibited from traveling takes motorists down to where the road parallels the shore. 

There, the road is canopied with trees and edged by historical stone fences, old cottages and a string of very large homes currently under construction. Almost from the beginning, the road has been the summer address for many of Wisconsin’s wealthy and well known.

Large trucks are not allowed to even try to negotiate the steep, curvy portion of Cottage Row Road in Fish Creek that travels down the bluff. A new turnaround will be created at the bottom of the hill as part of a larger reconstruction project. Photos by D.A. Fitzgerald.

For all that, the road is pitted and crumbling. Town records show it hasn’t been milled and replaced since 1971, with only pothole patching and minor resurfacing done during the past 50 years.

The need for the roadwork doesn’t help to pay for it, however, and the town is tapping three different sources to get the job done without borrowing the money to do it.

First, there’s the $350,000 the town had budgeted for roads this year. Next is revenue the town expects to collect from its new transportation utility fee, which was adopted last month. Only a half year’s worth of revenue will be collected this year from that new fee, or $200,000.

The final piece is $108,750.62 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds the town has received. ARPA is the federal government’s 2021, $1.9 trillion economic-stimulus bill. Within that was $350 billion in Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund dollars for states, municipalities, counties, tribes and territories.

The money can be used for a wide range of government operations, including infrastructure such as roads. During its July 6 meeting, the town board voted unanimously to put its entire ARPA amount toward the Cottage Row Road project. 

Spending the ARPA money all in one year would also make it easier to file with the U.S. Treasury, said town treasurer Theresa Cain-Bieri.

The anticipated start day for the project is Aug. 22, with the road milling starting around Sept. 4, followed by a two-day asphalt job. Workers are also pouring the road thicker – three inches instead of the standard two and a half. 

There are 52 parcels along the construction zone, but some are owned by the same people. Therefore, roughly 30 people will be affected by the construction, and then only slightly, Thyssen said.

“They’ll have full access,” he said. “There will be some inconveniences the day it is paved, but [at] the end of that day, it will be open.”

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