The summer of 2022 may seem a long way off, yet planning is well underway for a 1.9-mile highway project slated to run through the heart of Phillips on State Highway 13.

An informational meeting was held last week on Jan. 8, introducing a roomful of community members to the basics of the proposed Wisconsin Department of Transportation project.

Construction is scheduled to begin in summer and continue into the autumn months of 2022 as DOT crews work on a section of Highway beginning at County Highway D and running to the north side of the Elk River bridge. The project will include a new overlay of asphalt on that entire stretch of highway to replace the existing 24-year-old pavement, as well as leveling certain areas that have settled into dips over time.

Drainage structures will be replaced as necessary, as will curb and gutter.

The design of the guardrails used along Highway 13, with the metal rails dipping down to be buried in the ground, are no longer considered the safest option by the DOT. Either end of all the guardrails in that stretch of highway will be replaced with energy-absorbing bumpers.

In the heart of downtown Phillips, the vast majority of the existing curb ramps will need to be replaced to meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. Since ADA accessible curb ramps will require slightly more space than the existing ramps, approximately 40-50 parcels of real estate will need to be purchased by the state. These parcels will all be a matter of a few square feet in order to obtain the right-of-way required to create the new curbs. The DOT announced they plan to begin real estate acquisitions for the project this month.

Replacing these curb ramps will likely be the first step of the project in 2022, followed by milling and repaving the highway itself.

The DOT has identified gaps in the existing sidewalk system, which will also be addressed. Apart from adding a few brief segments of sidewalk, only minor replacements will be made to the downtown sidewalks by the DOT — only as required for the installation of the new curb ramps. The overall sidewalk repair needs identified by the City of Phillips will remain the responsibility of the individual property owners.

There will be modifications to the downtown parking area on Highway 13, with no parking from Highway D to Walnut Street, and no parking north of Elm Street.

As the 49-year-old bridge over the Elk Lake River on the north end of town is in need of repairs, the concrete deck of the bridge will be overlaid and the approach slabs and railings will be replaced.

In order to avoid causing serious impacts to downtown businesses and traffic flow, the DOT plans to leave open a single lane of Highway 13 and use flaggers to keep traffic moving. Temporary routes for pedestrians will also be implemented when the curb ramp replacements are underway.

The lead designer on the project, Forrest Van Asten, noted that the DOT is working with city officials to learn when local holiday weekends will likely occur in order to avoid traffic issues on those dates.

The cost of the highway project is estimated between $1.1-$1.7 million, and the bridgework is estimated at $250,000. The bulk of those costs, 80%, will be covered by federal funding, while 20% will come from the state.

The City of Phillips will be responsible for the entire funding for the milling and repaving of the downtown parking lanes, as it is city parking.

The DOT is currently accepting public feedback on the project anytime before Jan. 22, 2020. Written comments may be mailed to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, 510 N. Hanson Lake Road, Rhinelander, WI 54501 or emailed to forrest.vanasten@dot.wi.gov. Van Asten can also be reached by phone at 715-365-5781.

(Copyright © 2020 APG Media)

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