Monroe Street construction starts with no detour plan in place

Monroe Street construction starts with no detour plan in place

One of Madison’s busiest thoroughfares is about to get even busier and more chaotic. Construction begins Monday on an eight-month repaving project on Monroe Street.

Traffic headed downtown from Odana Road to Regent Street will be down to one lane until November. All outbound lanes will be completely closed during that time.

The project engineer promised big changes to make the busy road smoother, safer, more pedestrian-friendly, and modernized.

Starting Monday, workers will begin ripping up the pavement to replace the utilities underneath. The $18.6 million project will not only entail aesthetic street repair, but a new sewer system and water mains.

“This has been a long time coming,” said project engineer Jim Wolfe. “This has been a project that’s been delayed for a few years. Right now, we have utilities that are over 100 years old.”

Wolfe said the pavement has gotten so bad in many places that it’s become a safety issue and a maintenance headache.

The city has no detour route in place. Wolfe said there are too many options to designate one alternative route.

“Unfortunately for Monroe Street, there’s not a great parallel route,” Wolfe said. “We don’t have a great way to guess where people are trying to get to. We’re just letting people choose their own routes.”

Wolfe said Madison is ready to put out a list of recommended detour routes if necessary, but they aren’t doing so because there are so many different options they fear they could send drivers in the wrong direction.

The city is also working with Google Maps and Waze, so drivers using those mapping apps can search for the fastest alternative routes to get around Monroe Street construction.

Shop owners are worried about losing customers during construction. Wolfe said communication with them is key.

“We understand this is going to have a big impact on them,” Wolfe said. “We’re trying to keep them informed on everything that’s taking place, so they can get the message out to their customers. We want people to know all the businesses are still open, and it may be a little bit more difficult to get to them. It’s going to be a difficult year for them, so we hope everybody makes the effort to support those local businesses.”

The city hopes to have everything complete by the middle of November: new pavement, raised intersections, and higher visibility crosswalks to make the area safer to walk.