City of Brookfield — The expansion of an arterial road that cuts right down the center of Brookfield took another step last week.
The Brookfield common council was nearly unanimous in its approval of hiring R.A. Smith National Inc. to provide engineering services for the design of improvements to Calhoun Road.
For years the city has been exploring the possibility of expanding Calhoun between North Avenue and Capitol Drive. Throughout that stretch, the road is two lanes wide, whereas south of North Avenue, the road stretches to four lanes.
Alderman Christopher Blackburn voted against the action at both the public works committee level Jan. 10 and at the council meeting Jan. 17.
“I haven’t seen a big upward swing (in traffic) on that stretch of the road, in fact I’ve seen a decline,” Blackburn said. “I think, in my opinion, since it’s been operating that way for the decades that I’ve been here, it can continue to operate longer and it’s premature to start funding the study for the road widening.”
In April, the common council approved an agreement with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation that would see the DOT provide federal funds to cover 80 percent of the estimated cost of the project. The city would be responsible for the remaining 20 percent as well as any additional costs and the cost of land acquisition.
City of Brookfield director of public works Tom Grisa pointed to that deal even being available to the city as proof of the need for this project to be done.
“The federal government would not be willing to fund this project unless they saw a purpose and a need and they have,” Grisa said.
Under the current timeline, construction for the project would not begin until 2021.
“It takes this long in order to go through the engineering, the preliminary engineering, the analysis, the approval, the environmental document, the right-of-way acquisition and then the bidding process,” Grisa said.
Alderman Scott Berg expressed concern about a pending Waukesha County project that intends to widen North Avenue between Calhoun and 124th Street; however, Grisa noted that the projects are not expected to have their construction processes overlap.
“We’re not going to do them both at the same time. The county has planned their work for 2020, the year before,” Grisa said.
Berg also brought up the idea of using the road construction on Calhoun as an opportunity to improve a railroad crossing that rests on that stretch.
“One of my pet projects is trying to get a no-whistle zone for the trains and it’s an uphill battle. The key point is you can’t just put barricades on one of the five intersections, you have to have all done,” Berg said. “If we never start it, we’ll never finish it. Who knows? In 20 years we might actually have a no-whistle zone.”