It has been known for a long time that the retaining wall on Louisa Street/State Highway 81 is in need of repair. Although construction is not scheduled until 2015 it’s been said that an advanced schedule of fall 2014 is possible.
A public information meeting on this topic was held on June 11 in the Darlington Municipal Building with multiple project team members from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation as well as Knight Engineers & Architects available for questions and comments.
The meeting was an open-house format with members of the project team as well as representatives from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation available to discuss the project. Project comment forms were also available for those who attended. The forms could be submitted that evening or mailed into the team at a later date.
The current retaining structures and pedestrian facilities such as sidewalks and terraces on the north side of State Highway 81 will be reconstructed to meet current design standards and Americans with Disabilities Act standards.
The sidewalks on the north side of the street from Wells Street to Clay Street will be closed during the project.
The project will be a complete overhaul with all of the retaining walls, sidewalks, stairs and terraces to be reconstructed. No work will occur in the roadway, but there will be single lane closures during construction with traffic shifting.
The new designs in the proposed plans for construction call for the actual retaining wall to be pushed back with the sidewalk being moved from above the retaining wall where it currently sits, down to the street level.
The area where the sidewalk will sit will then be expanded allowing for a greater space between the sidewalk and the street that will be filled in by a grass terrace.
According to project manager Mahesh Shrestha from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, this style of retaining wall and sidewalk has been used in other locations with success and that after eight years the structure still looks quite new.
Shrestha and Heidi Schwarz, an engineer from Knight Engineers & Architects, estimated that the new retaining walls should last for around 40 years, although they said that number is only a loose estimate as structures in this style have mostly been built only recently so there has not been a large amount of time to observe them or to see what the maximum life is for them.
One concern that was mentioned by Darlington citizens during the meeting is who will be responsible for snow removal and the upkeep and mowing of the grass terrace on the street level where the sidewalk will now be.
Another citizen also demonstrated a concern with the possibility of the removal of a tree that sits on her property close to the retaining wall, since the plans show that the retaining wall will need to be moved farther back in order to make room for the sidewalks below.