West Waukesha Bypass construction delayed until 2017

Todd Ponath
The two-lane Meadowbrook and Merrill Hills roads will be replaced with a four-lane thoroughfare that would run from Interstate 94 south to Highway 59 as part of the West Waukesha Bypass. However, construction of the bypass is being pushed off by one year.
Published on: 12/7/2015

In some fashion, the West Waukesha Bypass has been in the works for more than 60 years on Waukesha's west side. It will have to wait a little longer.

It finally appeared the project was given the green light to begin construction in 2016, but the $50 million project that will run along county Highway TT, between state Highway 59 and Interstate 94, is now being pushed off until 2017.

The new project schedule will include the construction from I-94 to state Highway 18 (Summit Avenue) in 2017 and the construction from state Highway 18 (Summit Avenue) to state Highway 59 in the summer of 2018.

The project is funded through city, county, state and federal funds.

Permit problem

It was the government's involvement in the project which Waukesha County officials attributed to the delay.

"The complicated and lengthy federal permitting process will not be completed in sufficient time for the 2016 construction season," Gary Evans, manager of the county's highway engineering division, said late last week. "We were forced to (delay the work) based on the evidence."

While the city and county had designated money in their budgets for the project in 2016, there were signs a delay was possible.

In October, Allison Bussler, the county's director of public works, said despite the funds available, the bypass starting next year was contingent on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issuing a permit.

With Jan. 1, 2016, approaching — the date the permit was needed by — and still without the federal permit, the county decided it was best to delay the project.

The planned project

During its budget process this fall, the city approved $3.15 million in its Capital Investment Program for the bypass reconstruction, a four-lane thoroughfare that would replace the two-lane Meadowbrook and Merrill Hills roads.

As a result of the delay, Fred Abadi, the city's director of public works, said the city won't borrow funds in 2016 and instead his department will recommend to the finance committee and common council to fund the project in 2017.

The city is responsible for funding, designing and constructing the bypass from the northern limit of the Northview Road intersection to north of Rolling Ridge Drive. This section will be widened from a two-lane undivided roadway to a divided four-lane design.

The county will construct the segment from Northview Road to Summit Avenue. The state's Department of Transportation will construct the segment from Summit Avenue to Highway 59.

The planned improvements will address growing local and regional traffic volumes, and enhance traffic flow and safety, Evans said. Evans said the project's environmental study has already been approved and the highway design is in the final stages.

Current action

Despite the delay, Evans said Waukesha County has begun acquiring lands to widen the lanes for the bypass.

One area the county is looking at acquiring is a portion of Kisdon Hill Park in the city of Waukesha.

The city's plan commission was set to discuss this possible acquisition at its meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 9. The county is offering $4,000 for the land and for compensation in removing city street/park trees.

"The bypass project is still moving forward and the project team will continue with the development of the project and federal permitting process," Evans said. "We are coordinating work with the affected utilities along the project corridor, and hope that they will be able to start their relocation work ahead of the highway construction in the summer of 2017."