JT Cestkowski has heard a familiar question the past few weeks: when will Columbus’ street work finally be done?
Cestkowski, who works as the business liaison for the city of Columbus, said a specific date can’t be determined since not even the contractor or construction crews know exactly when all work will be completed. City officials believe work will be finished in the next few weeks and the entire roadway, which includes work along James Street and Highway 16/60, will be open to traffic.
“It will be open as soon as possible,” Cestkowski said. “Things have to happen in a certain order and there’s a flow for how things get done. We were delayed a bit this summer because we had a lot of rain and then the project deadline was moved up a bit, so that changed things.”
While a few street closure signs remain, most of downtown Columbus is open to local traffic.
“You can go almost anywhere on James Street to a point,” Cestkowski said. “But we still need cars to stay out of active work zones.”
Detours are still recommended for large trucks and out-of-town motorists so the work zone doesn’t get clogged with heavy traffic. Cestkowski said local motorists can use most of the renovated street to get to homes and businesses.
Cestkowski said James Street is open from Ludington to Lewis streets, but are still mostly closed past that point. Motorists will note the Dix Street/Industrial Drive intersection on the city’s west side is still filled with orange barrels and street closure signs. Cestkowski said this is one of the final phases of the project. After several months of work, motorists will no longer have to worry about detours and will have a direct route into downtown on a much better surface.
Cestkowski described the old James Street surface as a “glorified wagon trail.” Due to years of heavy traffic, the roadway was in rough shape. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation had plans to renovate the roadway for several years, but Columbus had to wait its turn in frustration. Finally the city was granted the work and residents and visitors will soon enjoy the renovation.
While the DOT will cover most of the cost, the city designated funds for colored crosswalks throughout downtown.
“It was money the city had available that they wanted to use specifically for that,” Cestkowski said.
Most of the heavy pavement work was completed a couple months ago and crews have focused on utility work the past few weeks.
“After the road was put in, a lot of people thought the work was almost done, but that’s really just the midway point,” Cestkowski said. “Then you have the months of work that come after that, like the infrastructure that goes underneath the road. You might as well do it right now so you don’t have to be digging up the street to get at it later.”
Line painting along James Street will likely begin next week, which may cause a halt in traffic.
While the city had to wait for years to get DOT funded projects completed, Cestkowski said more state-funded work is on the horizon. In coming years, projects are slated for Highway 73 near Exit 115 and another portion of Highway 60/16 near the Highway 151 overpass will also be redone.