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City of Waukesha begins to plan $42 million storm sewer project

A car makes its way through deep water in the area of Sunset Drive during a heavy downpour in August. Work is planned for the area estimated at $11.1 million and $1.4 million of TIF funding.

A car makes its way through deep water in the area of Sunset Drive during a heavy downpour in August. Work is planned for the area estimated at $11.1 million and $1.4 million of TIF funding.

Dec. 3, 2013

When the City of Waukesha's five-year Capital Improvement Program was passed a few weeks ago, it included $1 million for the storm sewer reconstruction and flood mitigation project.

It also included $100,000 for the development of new storm sewers.

That money, however, is just the starting point for a long-range plan to address flooding issues across the city.

The city's engineering department is looking at conducting a 20-year program that implements storm water system improvements. The cost of the 20-year program totals $42.3 million. Additional components of the project beyond the 20 years costs $68.8 million.

Paul Day, the city's engineer, said a consultant has been working on the project for the last two years after flooding during "more significant rainfalls" has become a concern.

As a result, the city chose 10 locations where problems continue to arise. A majority of them are on the city's northwest side.

Top 10

It ranked the 10 areas on four criteria: property impacts, public safety, financial leveraging and environmental impacts. Through the ranking process, it eliminated one location — Merrill Crest Park.

According to the ranking system, the area with the most concern was at Rolling Ridge Drive and North University Drive. This location was the highest in flooding impacting the most roadways and was second in financial leveraging (which considers planned road reconstruction, tax incremental financing (TIF) districts and known private development). The estimated cost is $5.9 million.

Below are the other areas of concern:

· North University Drive, between Emslie Drive and Darrell Drive, and Patrick Lane, south of Darrell Drive. Cost is $7 million and it is the third-ranked area for priority due to the number of properties affected and blocks of flooded roadway.

· Airport Business Park and Peters Drive. This location would cost $600,000 and is ranked No. 8 on the priority list.

· Frame Park Creek at Harding Avenue and Anoka Avenue. This location is high on the priority list at No. 4 with flooding impacting a significant number of properties. The engineering department said flooding in the alley is a concern. Cost in this area is $900,000.

· Lawndale Avenue and South Washington Avenue. This area includes neighborhood street flooding and while it is ranked seventh of 10 for priority, it would cost $4.4 million.

· East Moreland Boulevard at Wolf Road. Street flooding needs to be addressed at this location, the engineering department concluded and would cost $9 million. It is ranked No. 1 in "financial leveraging" due to planned reconstruction of Moreland Boulevard by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and by the city.

· Summit Avenue and Michigan Avenue. This is the most expensive project at $17.4 million because it "includes conveyance in Sylvan Drive area and three areas of detention."

TIF area

· South West Avenue, South Grand Avenue, and South East Avenue at West Sunset Drive. This is the next most expensive project at $11.1 million, but the cost doesn't include $1.4 million of TIF funding.

This is the site of the former Kmart and is in a TIF district. This ranks at the top for "environmental impacts" based on the number of potential water quality facilities and improvements needed.

Day said this project could begin next year because the old Kmart site will also undergo reconstruction in 2014.

"This project is really No. 1," Day said.

· West Newhall Avenue at South West Avenue. The cost is $7.7 million and includes above ground storage at the former DMV/DOT property. It is ranked ninth on the priority list because property impacts and public safety in this area are minimal.

20-year plan

Across the nine areas, the engineering department broke the 20-year plan into 17 individual projects. The first is to construct a 66-inch parallel storm sewer at South East Avenue, estimated at $2.1 million.

The next includes incorporating a 60-inch storm sewer along Meadowbrook Drive and a 24-inch storm sewer along Joanne Drive with the Waukesha Bypass construction, estimated at $2.6 million.

The third is to construct a 60-inch storm sewer in East Moreland Boulevard, part of the DOT projects from Wolf Road to Manhattan Drive. Fourth on the list is to construct another 60-inch storm sewer in East Moreland Boulevard from Manhattan Drive to the Fox River. The estimated cost is $4.3 million.

Other solutions include constructing drainage basins, storage spaces, new sewers, replacement sewers and parallel sewers.

Day said one of the worst hit areas in the city was at the intersection of College and Hinman, near Carroll University, a few years ago.

"Ultimately the solution was to buy nine homes and we took them down and created a storm water base (a pond)," Day said. "That was a significant project. (The flooding) was similar to what we're talking about in other areas. We didn't approach them to buy their homes, but were looking at other solutions to solve the flooding problem in the area.

"They approached us and said, 'why don't you buy our homes.'"

He hasn't heard of any major problems since the pond was created.

Neighborhood meetings across the city were held to get feedback on the flooding problems earlier this year.

Day said the city used those meetings to form the program that it is now discussing with residents at informational meetings over the next month. The 20-year program will then be presented to the Common Council in early 2014.

But Day said each project has to come to the council before implementation.

While environmental impacts were included when ranking each project's priority, that list was based on proximately to wetlands and other environmental areas.

"But the details of the impact, or how to avoid these areas have not been exhausted," Day said. "It's easy to say that (constructing a 66-inch storm sewer) is a solution, but we'll need more details on constructing it and what the impacts are on water quality."

For a list of the project areas, see the engineering page of the City of Waukesha's website at

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