City of Rhinelander, contractors, business owners work together to help move traffic around construction site
A sign at the intersection of Brown and Anderson streets in downtown Rhinelander directs traffic to parking areas. Routes through and around town have opened and closed, shifting around the work as the Downtown Streetscape Project progresses.
When thousands of motorhomes and trucks pulling large campers roll through the main artery in a small town, it’s a disruption to the normal flow of traffic. When the main artery is completely torn up and impassable, it presents a whole new set of challenges.
That was the case earlier this summer in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, when the gates opened at the Hodag Country Music Festival in the midst of the city’s $10 million Downtown Streetscape Project. The fact it was July Fourth weekend didn’t help. The town was already choked with tourist season traffic, with the parade scheduled to snake through downtown in the middle of it all.
“We worry about traffic all the time,” says project engineer Mark Barden, with Town & Country Engineering of Madison. “We addressed the music festival and had detours out on the bypass and took them around the downtown area. We put maps on the website for that, showing that detour and also how to get into the downtown area if they wanted to.”
Throughout the course of the project, detours have shifted as streets opened and closed. Maintaining access to downtown businesses has been a priority for the city.
“We talk about it at our weekly meetings and make sure we have the traffic flowing appropriately,” Barden says. “The transition from Courtney Street to Stevens Street, a lot of thought went into that to make it seamless. We want to keep people moving as freely as possible.”
The contractor and engineers are also listening to business owners when they have concerns about customers’ access to their stores and restaurants.
“Sometimes it takes some tweaking to make it work appropriately,” Barden says. “Sometimes we move the signs around to help the business owners and other times it’s appropriate where they are.”
Too Much Help
Rhinelander Public Works Director Tim Kingman is quick to point out, however, that sometimes too much help isn’t always a good thing.
“We have the city involved, the contractor, the business owners and even the county, too,” Kingman says. “Sometimes they all want different things and we just have to go with what works best.”
Kingman says the contractor and the engineers look at the work at the start of the week and decide which way works best with the traffic flow.
“It has been constantly changing every week of this project and it takes time and patience to work through those,” Kingman says. “We then inform the community of any changes. It’s a part of a project of this size. It’s something you’ll always run into.”