Soon after students took their last exams and the majority of students left campus, those all-to-familiar orange cones began appearing. It was summer, and it was time for road construction in Madison.
The renovation of University Avenue dominated the city for much of the summer. Raymond P. Catell Inc. was awarded the contract for the major portion of construction running along Campus Drive and University Avenue, according to a statement on construction by the city. Workers replaced sewer systems, curbs, gutters and asphalt throughout that stretch of downtown, in addition to several other major roads.
Construction began east of Park Street as early as March, with sections west of Park Street starting in mid- May. The final street was open early last week.
For some, the thought of tearing up University Avenue and other main thoroughfares sounded like a nightmare. However, John Fahrney, a Madison construction engineer, explained that with buckling asphalt and underground piping that was over 100 years old, it was time for an overhaul.
""The last time University Avenue was redone was sometime in the 1980's and [the piping] didn't need replacing then, but it was just time now,"" Fahrney said. ""We minimize the inconvenience as best we can. We really wanted to have main sections like Lake and Park done by the time students moved in and football games started.""
Chris Petykowski, a design engineer for the city, agreed with Fahrney that sections of downtown were in desperate need of repair. According to Petykowski, pavement typically lasts for about 30 years, so stretches on University Avenue, Lake Street and other areas were long past their prime.
While the streets were being torn up, city engineers also inspected the aging sewer, storm and other utility pipes. Petykowski said engineers inserted a small video camera to inspect the pipes. With this information they could select pipes that were damaged, and leave functioning pipes intact. By this method of spot replacing, Petykowski said the city will avoid major construction on these roads in the near future.
""If we didn't [replace them] and they broke after we had new pavement down we would have to rip up new pavement. So it's more cost -effective for pipes of that age for us to fix it while we are doing the street,"" Petykowski said.
While the city was conscious of completing construction before campus became flooded with students in the fall, they couldn't help but cause some inconvenience.
David Ward, a senior lecturer for the business school, taught a class in Grainger over the summer, and spent much of his time downtown. Living out on the far west side, there was little he could do to avoid the construction.
""I've lived in Madison for 20 years and it's one of the worst summers that I can remember as far as orange barrels and stuff all over the place,"" Ward said. ""I took the bus and brought something to read because it was better than just sitting stuck in your car somewhere.""
While Ward avoided much of the hassle by taking the bus, he did express concern over the safety of pedestrians in some areas. Intersections like Park and University were closed to one lane, and pedestrians often had to walk close to traffic to cross the street. However, this area was cleared before students returned for the fall semester.
Ward was far from the only person to deal with the headache of downtown this summer. Major construction proved difficult for the many freshmen coming in for orientation as well. UW-Madison freshman Amanda Carns who lives in the Lakeshore dorms, said even though she and her family had been to Madison many times before they still struggled with traffic.
""We had lots of problems with SOAR,"" Carns said. ""We got lost a lot. The second day was the worst, trying to get around the engineering campus.""
When asked about the construction that enveloped areas around engineering, including Dayton, Randall and Charter Street, Fahrney said this was not related to the University Avenue project. The university started the project surrounding that part of campus and the construction of the new Union South.
While Carns struggled with SOAR, most of UW-Madison freshman Jordan Weibel's problems came after he arrived at campus. With both of his parents being alumni and an older brother currently on campus, Weibel said he expected traffic delays during SOAR and on move-in day. His real difficulties started when he tried to navigate campus.
""The biggest way it's affected me is biking,"" Weibel said. ""Sometimes I bike to Lakeshore to see friends and you can't use the bike lane on West Johnson. And over by engineering you really have to bike in the traffic, you're really out there. It definitely doesn't make things easier.""
Petykowski admitted that construction isn't something people look forward to, but said the city did all it could to minimize the interruption. City streets were left open to traffic—although at times restricted to one lane, the project deadlines worked around the university's schedule, and the project was split into three different contractors to ensure the work was done as quickly as possible, Petykowski said.
For the most part it seemed that students and faculty recognized the value of the work being done. Ward said he didn't mind seeing his tax dollars at work, especially on a project he knew needed to be done.
""It definitely needed it. I know from going down University Avenue hundreds of times it was long overdue,"" Ward said. ""There were some really killer potholes that could really do a number on your car. It was definitely not a ‘make work' project, it was something that it was good that they got it done.""