Algoma construction ends… finally

Liam Beran, Staff Writer

After nine months of closure, Algoma Boulevard went back into operation Nov. 18. High Avenue, which was converted into a two-way street to accommodate traffic during construction, is back into a one-way street.

Algoma’s reconstruction throughout the UW Oshkosh campus allowed for the installation, repair and replacement of  “all municipal underground utilities,” such as those for storm sewage, sanitary sewage, electricity and more, as well as reconstruction of the roadway, sidewalks and driveways.

General contractor Dorner Inc. put forth an initial bid of almost $8.7 million for the project, though final costs are expected to be higher. Josh Fleming, the city of Oshkosh civil engineer on the project, said that a final cost for the completed reconstruction would be available around mid-January. A full budget breakdown of the bid can be found online.

“I am happy to report that we have reached the finish line. We have a beautiful new thoroughfare through campus to enjoy for years to come,” said JoAnn Rife, UWO Chief Facilities Officer, in a November campus-wide email.

The reconstruction’s completion marks a return to normal traffic and pedestrian operations for the university. At some points in the fall semester, pedestrians on the empty boulevard were advised to follow orange barrels marking “legal paths” or walk on the grass around adjacent buildings while driveways and sidewalks were worked on. 

Bradley Spanbauer, Sustainability Director for the UWO Sustainability Institute for Regional Transformations, said he was excited to have the boulevard redone, also noting the repainting done to its bike lane, saying that “[the painting] encourages a more sustainable mode of transportation.” 

Spanbauer said UWO facilities and the city of Oshkosh found it unfeasible to implement one environmentally sustainable  suggestion: bioswales for increased stormwater retention and promotion of native plants along Algoma Boulevard, an idea which was pitched by student researchers and a faculty member. UWO and Oshkosh officials found that “buried utility lines, inability to pile snow in swales and the overall pitch of the road and grading” would make the implementation of these bioswales difficult.

“While it may not have worked, with additional forethought and proper planning, hopefully these kinds of installations would be suited for other road construction projects in the city,” said Spanbauer. 

Some students raised criticism at how the reconstruction affected their transportation. Pyper Rouse, a sophomore commuter student majoring in marketing, said that Algoma’s reconstruction was detrimental to “my methods of getting to campus.” She said she would have to alter her route to campus while also navigating potential construction on the different route, and that the length of the construction was “extremely frustrating.” 

Rouse also said that she noticed dangerous traffic behavior, particularly from pedestrians, on both the previously two-way High Avenue, and now on both High and Algoma. 

“There’s a lot of students that walk out in the middle of the street, not even obeying any of the crosswalks or anything like that. There’s a lot more safety concerns now with the streets opening back up, that I think students need to be reminded about safety,” Rouse said.