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As Waukesha road construction rages on, business leader fears economic impact

Data pix.

WAUKESHA -- Waukesha is getting a jump on construction season -- with Barstow Street shut down for water main work. But all the orange barrels are acting like red flags to downtown business owners.

This comes as 5Points Brew & Sweets is set to close at the end of the week.

"We were downtown here for the past two years," said Mark Knudsen, Chief Financial Officer for 5Points Brew & Sweets.

Knudsen made a decision to shutter the cafe -- and focus on his other business, Pop's Kettle Corn in Muskego.

"We're not closing because we're not making money. We are doing a great job with the revenue coming in," Knudsen said.

Mark Knudsen

Even so, at least three businesses around him have closed up shop in just the short time Knudsen has been there. Knudsen told FOX6 News downtown road construction has been ongoing for six years.

"Whenever customers start seeing barrels, people tend to avoid some of those areas," said Norm Bruce, President, Waukesha Downtown Business Association.

Out of the last ten business owners to leave the area, Bruce said all of them have cited road construction as a factor for their business failing.

Road construction in downtown Waukesha

As far back as 2016, the owners of Key Westconsin told FOX6 News construction was a big reason they closed. The latest project began last week on Barstow to replace water and sewer mains. There is hope when the dust settles -- Spring City will be in much better shape.

"We're not getting the pass-through traffic that we might have gotten through before," Bruce said.

Phase 1 of this latest construction project is not supposed to wrap up until the end of June. Then, of course, there is Phase 2 -- which will not be done until September. CLICK HERE for information on the entire project.

Statement from project engineer

Included with this project, and in a similar fashion to previous downtown Waukesha area projects, the City has utilized proactive strategies to reduce the impact the project will have overall on businesses and the downtown area. Specifically related to the Barstow St. project, the schedule requirements that were included with the contract are extremely tight in an effort to force contractor to utilize multiple crews and accelerate the project schedule overall. Also included within the project’s contract is an incentive payment of $2,000/day for early completion of the project up to a maximum of 50 days (20 days for the 1st phase of the project and 30 days for the 2nd phase). The incentive payment is provided with the hopes of accelerating the schedule even further, and getting the project opened back up to normal operation as quickly as possible. The Barstow St. project is being phased overall to break up the project into 2 main sections and forcing the re-opening of over half of the project earlier in the calendar year. This will reduce the global impact, and the intention is to have the northern half of the project fully open prior to major events during the summer months. The Barstow St. project started in mid-February in an effort to wrap everything up on time, earlier in the year, to take advantage of the best weather months, and other scheduled events in the area.

Prior to the project starting, the City hosted 2 general public information meetings regarding the project, and coordinated a separate meeting during the design phase of the project with local downtown stakeholders and business owners for their input and feedback on the direction of the project.

Additional measures were included directly within the Barstow St. project to help with the navigation around the project for vehicles and pedestrians, and make sure they make their way to their intended destinations. There is additional signing around the project limits, and detour routes that will be directing vehicles to parking ramps, and downtown businesses. There is also additional signing provided to state the businesses are open during construction, and signing that sidewalks are open to businesses through the project limits. We also allow for local businesses to have signs made for their individual businesses and placed on construction barricades around the project to further inform the traveling public that they are open during the project.

Throughout the project, updates will be posted weekly, and oftentimes more frequently, regarding progress, and traffic control impacts or changes to the City’s webpage, and an email distribution list. Anyone can join the list by sending an email to myself, bschwenn@waukesha-wi.gov, requesting to be added to the update list for the Barstow St. and Riverfront St. project.

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