Oconomowoc Receives $2.3 Million Grant to Complete Pedestrian Underpass

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Pedestrians and cyclists will soon be able to traverse a tunnel on the Oconomowoc Lake Country Trail under Highway 67 on the south side of town thanks to a $2.28 million federal grant to complete the project after years of delay .

“The only thing that keeps me up at night is this tunnel,” Mayor Robert Magnus said in his State of the City address Feb. 10.

“Now there is light at the end of the tunnel,” he said in a Feb. 28 press release.

The tunnel is between the two Kwik Trips near the Oconomowoc Parkway and Highway 67.

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Waukesha County attempted to complete the project in 2016, but only received $798,000 from the state Department of Transportation for an estimated $2.3 million underpass project, leaving a significant gap between funding and costs.

City officials made some changes to the project in 2019, bringing the cost down to $1.7 million. Waukesha County and the city applied for a larger grant in 2020, which they did not receive.

“I told everyone if they didn’t do it I was going to shovel it myself,” Ald said. Kevin Ellis, who actually brought a shovel to the site in July to publicize the project.

“It’s great for the community, and it should have happened years ago. But I’m glad we can do it now, and people can go up and down the street and the people won’t have to worry about being hit by a car,” he said.

After exploring funding options in 2021, Magnus, with the assistance of State Representative Barbara Dittrich, Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow, and Waukesha County Supervisor Tyler Foti, among others, requested the grant in July, with a revised construction estimate of $2.7 million due to the rising cost of materials. The city has budgeted an additional $150,000 over several years to cover the additional funds, Magnus said.

City officials hope to open the tunnel later this year or early 2023, Magnus said.

In 2014, then-Mayor James Daley called for the underpass project to be included in plans to rebuild Highway 67, but a lack of funding in 2016 derailed that part of the project. The west side of the tunnel was built in 2015 and the east side was built in 2016. Construction of Highway 67 was completed during this time.

Completing the project is important to ensure the safety of pedestrians and cyclists, who have narrowly missed accidents trying to cross the intersection, Ellis said.

“At the end of the day, it’s about the safety of our community. There were one or two occasions where I took my life into my own hands,” Ellis said.

“I hope it saves lives. That’s the goal,” Magnus said.

Contact Alex Groth at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @grothalexandria.

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