Crews overcome unexpected obstacles and Rhinelander’s Downtown Streetscape Project stays on track


Despite some surprises, significant rain events, and project add-ons, officials in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, say the massive Downtown Streetscape Project is still on schedule.

The project, highlighted in the August issue of Municipal Sewer & Water, consists primarily of combined sewer separation, sewer and water system upgrades and streetscape improvements throughout the downtown. Since the article was written, work crews were hit with two large rain events that each dumped about 4 inches of water on the project. They were also faced with an underground vault that required some changes to design, and a new block of work was added to the project.

Despite these complications, the project is progressing well. “I would say we’re pretty much on schedule at this point,” says Mark Barden, engineer with Town & Country Engineering. “The advantage we have is the underground crews are very efficient. They’re going pretty quick.”

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The project, launched in late March, is at its midpoint with one of the main thoroughfares now open and another half of one reopening this week.

Seeing some completion
The first portion of the project, which focused on North Brown and Anderson streets in the heart of Rhinelander, is nearing preliminary completion: The first layer of asphalt is now on the streets, and only the final touches need to be done.

“We have a majority of South Anderson Street complete. We just have a little more storm sewer to tie in on the south end at Brown Street,” says Barden. “North Brown Street is wrapped up, all the approaches are in and businesses are wide open in there. There will be work that’ll be done once the streets are open, like putting in the trees. Lights will be coming up in the next couple of weeks also.”

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About a month ago the intersection of Courtney and Davenport streets was opened, allowing the Courtney Street main corridor to open. Once that portion opened to traffic, Stevens Street — running parallel to Brown Street — was closed and work began on a two-block portion of that street.

“They’re going to be wrapping up the underground work on that street and starting on curb and gutter subgrade in the next week,” Barden says. “It’s kind of slow going, but once we get the subgrade electrical in it’ll be a little bit quicker of a progression.”

More complexity with Stevens Street
As crews began shifting work from North Brown to Stevens Street, complications arose.

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“We’ve had to deal with a lot on Stevens Street,” Barden says. “There’s a tunnel that goes from a bank’s main branch to its drive-up branch across the street, and we had to do some boring under that tunnel. We had to core through that tunnel and get the storm pipe through there.”

Crews also ran into a number of utilities at the intersection of Stevens and Davenport streets, adding even more complexity to the job. “Compared to Stevens Street, Brown was a piece of cake going north,” Barden says.

Moving south
Now that North Brown Street has opened to traffic, crews began tearing up South Brown Street this week. The work will be similar to the rest of the project, Barden says.

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“In this next phase they’ll be working on South Brown to, and including, the intersection at Anderson, tying into storm sewer that we left off with on Anderson,” Barden says. “Street construction will follow that and then we’ll go into the last phase, which is the last stretch of Stevens, which is one block south from where work is taking place now.”

Taking advantage of opportunity
While work was progressing, the city began to see cost savings. “We had a lot of work done already and what we’ve seen with that work is that it’s been on track with a minimum cost compared to when we encounter things that are more difficult, like rock removal, environmental issues and other things that add up,” says Tim Kingman, Public Works director.

Kingman suggested to the city council the idea of adding an additional block to the Stevens Street work — one block north of the current work.

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“When going into this project in the very beginning, we looked at what we can do and what we can afford, and that price tag was set at just short of $10 million,” Kingman says. “We’ve seen a favorable market, and now we’re sitting here halfway through the job saying we could get more work done, so that’s what happened.”

Work on that block of Stevens will be similar to the other work being done — new storm sewers, upgrading water and sewer pipes as needed, and new asphalt and curbing.

“In Rhinelander, you don’t have to look much forward than the next block and there is some need for other work to be done, just like any other community,” Kingman says. “We just decided to use that portion of the roadway to fill out the project a little further.”


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