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Thomas Street direction uncertain again

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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAU) -- Wausau’s City Council remains divided over Thomas Street solutions. The major east-west corridor has been studied for many years, and the aldermen are as divided as the area residents about how the street should be rebuilt.

Several Thomas Street neighborhood residents attended to oppose widening the corridor

Member Lisa Rasmussen has supported the four-lane option from the Wisconsin River to 17th Avenue, but now supports the hybrid option with two lanes and turn lanes between 3rd Avenue and 17th Avenue. She believes the issues have been thoroughly studied and it’s time for a decision. “The only decision that took longer than this that I can recall is the 400 Block. We just can’t do this. We need to move forward and get this decision made, get the next one made about the right-of-way width, and then move ourselves forward.”

Sherry Abitz represents the Thomas Street area, and she is fed up with the delays. “We have people that art trying to move on with their lives that we are now delaying again because they can’t decide here at City Council on what they want to do with the street. This is getting ridiculous that we cannot move forward on this issue.”

After lengthy discussion, Abitz called for the question, and was defeated on a 1-10 nay vote. She abruptly left the meeting. The discussion continued.

The city has spent thousands of dollars and over a decade with at least three firms studying and designing a new Thomas Street. Some people want to keep it within its existing footprint, while others want a four-lane traffic solution. Just this week, another option was offered to the city by resident and architect Kevin Korpela. This plan would place turn lanes in existing pavement and not change the right-of-way.

Council members have mixed support for the Korpela plan.Robert Mielke opposes the four lane and the hybrid plans and is interested in the Korpela plan. “These folks have been here time and time again, and it’s been ongoing for years. It’s been going on longer than most of us have been on the council. I think these folks deserve to be listened to. They don’t want it. I will not support it. I would also agree with what Mr. (Bill) Nagle had said, that we should look at the Korpela plan.”

Lisa Rasmussen is opposed to it. “If we’re going to go back right now and study the Korpela plan, which apparently he’s worked for free, what the hell did we pay GRAEF (Engineering and Design) for? What did we spend all that money and all of those months dragging GRAEF in here with a diagram the length of the board room table so that we can throw that out, too? This is a dog and pony show. We need to make a decision with a thirty-year vision and move forward.”

Keene Winters isn’t sure the Korpela plan is the right plan, but he wants to see the details. “As Finance Committee Chairman, I want to at least see a baseline cost for keeping it in its existing footprint, even just for the sake of understanding what the minimum cost of dealing with the program is, and the additional things and what they cost. Then, I can make an evaluation.”

After heated discussion, the hybrid plan with a combination of two lane and four lane sections was sent to the Coordinating Committee along with the Korpela proposal against the wishes of Council President and Coordinating Committee Chairman Romy Wagner. That means there is still no final accepted design, meaning consultant AECOM cannot put costs to the plan and Thomas Street property owners still won’t know if they will be able to stay or if they will have to go to make room for the road.

Council President Romy Wagner and councilman Mike Neal expressed their concern about not being heard during the discussion until after the vote.

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