Controversial road project moves forward - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Controversial road project moves forward


A controversial construction project in Wausau will move forward.

The city approved the Thomas Street design plan 6-5 at a council meeting Tuesday evening. The project entails widening the road from the Wisconsin River Bridge to 4th Avenue while fixing the infrastructure.

It was a close vote in what's been a very polarizing topic among residents and council members.

"I have to make sure my vote is for the best of the city of Wausau and the residents, that's why I voted no," said council member Becky McElhaney.

"The street project needs to move forward, the infrastructure needs to get fixed," said City Council President Lisa Rasmussen.

The project has drawn continued criticism because of possible contaminants in the soil. Hours before the meeting was held, several dozen people protested the project asking for more testing with the soil. They marched and chanted down the sidewalk in front of Wausau City Hall.

"If you've got a city government that really doesn't value a person's homes, they're not too concerned about their health, what are what are they concerned about," said resident Tom Kilian. "It's exceptionally important, the community doesn't even know how important in the historical context."

The city had tests done on the soil that they say showed no excess levels of harmful chemicals. However, a group of residents hired an outside group to test the soil which they say showed elevated levels of dioxins.

City leaders said they plan to work with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources when it comes to disposing the soil that they remove.

"We need to handle these soils. we need to address this," said Lindman. "The DNR is not saying go ahead and do whatever you want, they're saying you need now at this point to start working with the solid waste people."

There have been countless meetings on the project spanning back years. City leaders said they've made compromises with residents and listened to their concerns.

"We have been able to save 12 of the 15 homes," said Rasmussen.

The city will now work on purchasing the homes needed, while engineers detail the design plans. They said they hope to start construction May, 2019.

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