Langer: "There still will be one lane of traffic on Johnson Street during the project, so we're not closing the road."
City officials presented updated plans Thursday to residents, businesses and property owners at Lapham Elementary School for the proposed 2014 reconstruction of Johnson Street.
The proposal outlines the replacement of existing curbs, gutters, pavement and driveway aprons (the area between the sidewalk and curb) on the street from North Butler Street to North Baldwin Street. The project also includes the installation of bike lanes; enhanced pedestrian crossings, traffic signals and lighting; and new sewers and water mains. The construction site is just over a mile long. Johnson Street will remain a one-way street with two through lanes and two lanes on either side of the street for right turns and parking.
City engineer Glen Yoerger says the project will last for the entire construction season. Dates are not finalized, but he estimates construction will run from mid-April through October.
Johnson Street is one of Madison's major outbound arteries. The most heavily used section -- between Butler Street and Blair Street -- sees about 21,000 vehicles a day, according to city traffic engineer Scott Langer.
Langer says city engineers expect most of the congestion to occur at the start of the construction zone at the intersection of Johnson Street, Hamilton Street and Butler Street.
"Through the construction zone itself, we don't expect a lot," he says. "There still will be one lane of traffic on Johnson Street during the project, so we're not closing the road."
Langer says the city is planning an alternate route, diverting traffic prior to the construction site using Bassett Street, West Washington Avenue and the outer Capital loop. The other option is East Washington Avenue, but he says that road will not be able to absorb all of the Johnson Street traffic because it is near capacity already.
Yoerger says buses and bicycles will be detoured to Mifflin Street. This part of the plan concerns resident Alan Gold.
Gold, who lives on Few Street, questioned the feasibility of detouring buses to Mifflin Street, which already hosts heavy bike traffic due to nearby street repaving. Gold worries that additional cars may park on Mifflin Street as parking on Johnson Street becomes scarce during construction.
"Mifflin is a great street to ride down," he said. "You add buses and it's going to be a real mess."
While bicycles and buses will take detours down Mifflin Street, Langer hopes cars will not do the same.
"There could be some diversion to Dayton Street and Mifflin," he said. "Our goal would be to keep as much of it off those two streets as possible. You can't get across the river on either one of them, and it's also very hard to get to those streets from the points where the congestion would be happening ... So we're hoping that that will actually hold back some of that diversion to those residential streets."
Currently, the city is installing a new storm sewer and electric utilities on the outbound lanes of East Washington Avenue, another other major isthmus thoroughfare. This project includes the construction of a median break and left turn lanes at the Livingston Street intersection, and is due for completion August 9.
Two lanes remain open in both directions except during non-peak hours when traffic can be reduced to one lane. In the city's Roadworks update for the project, engineers say the traffic impact of this construction is "major," and that drivers should expect delays during peak commuting times.
Langer says the construction on East Washington Avenue will be completed prior to the start of the Johnson Street reconstruction -- it has to be.
"Johnson Street has had some flooding issues in the past," he says. "City engineering is running a new storm sewer up Livingston, down East Wash and it connects into the storm sewer on East Wash. That project actually needs to be done in advance of the Johnson Street project."
Yoerger says the city does not have plans for street construction projects for East Washington Avenue until 2018.
Ald. Ledell Zellers says developments going up on East Washington Avenue may affect the flow of traffic in the future. There is currently a mixed-use building going up on the north side of the 700 block of East Washington and another proposal moving through the city's approval process for the 800 block.
"If there do need to be additional changes due to construction going on on East Washington, I'm pretty confident that there will be planning and sensitivity to businesses and residents," she says.
The University of Wisconsin began two construction projects on May 28 that are due for completion in August. One of them, a storm sewer project on Walnut Street, will limit inbound (eastbound) traffic to one lane on Campus Drive, but will not affect outbound (westbound) traffic, where both lanes will remain open. The city's Traffic Engineering and Parking divisions expect severe congestion during peak travel hours due to the construction on the inbound side. The second project will close North Park Street south of Langdon Street.
Zellers says these projects will be completed by the time Johnson Street reconstruction begins, so there should be no cumulative impact. She says city officials have a "fairly long-term road reconstruction planning process" that takes into account the citywide effects of projects as well as impacts on individual streets.
"They consider interactions among projects to make sure that they minimize overall impact on traffic disruption as much as possible."