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Extra effort

Road builders try to ease effects on drivers

Photos submitted by R.A. Smith National Inc.

Photos submitted by R.A. Smith National Inc.

Connecting New Berlin and Muskego in Waukesha County, Highway Y is a vital artery in the county’s road system.

But when that artery was temporarily cut for a $5.69 million road reconstruction project, successfully bypassing the construction zone was a challenge.

Mike Mentzel, construction project manager for R.A. Smith National, general contractor for the project, said coordination among the county, the state and the city of New Berlin made all the difference in meeting the challenges of a project that affected thousands of drivers.

“There are no easy ways to get around out there,” Mentzel said.

With about 25,000 vehicles traveling the road daily, detouring traffic was a major part of the project, he said.

The first plan involved a 17-minute detour, but area residents were not pleased with that option, said New Berlin Mayor Jack Chiovatero. So, working together with the city, project staff developed a shorter route through a newer subdivision.

“To be honest, it was not something the contractor, myself or law enforcement thought was a good idea,” Mentzel said. “But because of the concerns of the county and city, we wanted to make this one as user friendly as we could.”

Public meetings were set up to keep residents informed, and the city of New Berlin increased law enforcement in the area to ease traffic concerns for the subdivision.

Although some residents initially opposed the project, which transformed the two-lane rural road to a four-lane urban roadway, Mentzel said they were supportive and positive during the project.

“They brought up their concerns in a professional way,” he said.

Having Mentzel as a contact point was an advantage, Chiovatero said, as shown by the successful rerouting of the detour.

“I’m sure the change added a few dollars and a lot of headaches,” he said, “but it eased the minds of residents.”

By the time the road project was complete, traffic counts indicated 500 to 700 people a day used the subdivision detour, Mentzel said.

“It impacted a lot of people,” he said. “It was a very enjoyable job because of the cooperation effort and communication from everybody involved.”

Highway Y

Location: New Berlin

Submitting company: R.A. Smith National Inc., Brookfield

General Contractor: R.A. Smith National Inc.

Engineers: Bloom Companies LLC, Milwaukee (design); R.A. Smith National Inc. (construction)

Owner: Waukesha County

Project size: 1.5 miles

Project cost: $5.69 million

Start date: March 1, 2009

Completion date: Nov. 15, 2009

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