EAU CLAIRE — A rough road on a growing part of Eau Claire’s north side is in need of a repaving or a major overhaul, and city officials are asking residents which option they’d prefer.
The nearly mile-long stretch of Jeffers Road between the North Crossing and County Line Road is slated for a construction project in 2022 that will be partially funded by the state Department of Transportation.
Development along the road in recent years has led the city to lean toward entirely rebuilding the roadway and making it more friendly to pedestrians and bicyclists.
“We are trying to accommodate the existing growth that has happened out there and the potential growth,” said Leah Ness, deputy city engineer.
There is a growing residential neighborhood along the portion of Jeffers Road set for construction and the city — aided by donors — also built a park in that area in 2015.
Under the city’s preferred road construction option, it would remain two lanes of traffic, but bike lanes would be added. Along one side of the road there would be a sidewalk added while the opposite side of the street would gain a paved multi-use recreational trail.
The current road just has a narrow shoulder, but the city proposes adding curb and gutter as part of an improved drainage system.
The city does have a state grant that will pay for $569,000 of the roadwork as that part of Jeffers Road is a collector street that intersections with Highway 312 (North Crossing).
Initially that appeared to cover about half the costs of a total overhaul of the road, but that is no longer the case as engineers learned about weak soil underneath Jeffers Road.
An early estimate for the project was $1.05 million, according to Ness. But it is now estimated to cost $2.5 million to $3 million.
The higher cost came after engineers sampled the subsurface conditions, ruling that entirely new sand and gravel would need to be hauled in to rebuild the road. Ness also remarked that recent increases in fuel costs needed to transport materials and run heavy machinery also contributed to the rising estimate.
A presentation of the pros and cons of the options being considered pointed out the price difference and another complication in widening the road.
“It is more expensive, and new right of way would need to be acquired along both sides of the road,” the presentation stated.
For the residences along Jeffers Road, the project map shows slivers of their front and side yards would be impacted by widening the roadway.
Ness said that land would be impacted during construction by changing their slope to improve drainage.
“For the most part it’s just some general grading in their yards,” she said.
On the west side of Jeffers Road where community gardens, a yard waste and brush site, and the city park are located, it would also mean impacts to those facilities.
The biggest would be for the gardens — plots rented by Eau Claire residents who grow produce there — which would need to relocate their current access path that is close to the road.
Another option for fixing Jeffers Road would be to just resurface the road with a new three-inch thick layer of asphalt. The cost for that is estimated at $417,500.
But the engineers state that would quickly deteriorate.
“A new pavement layer would be a great improvement over the existing condition but would not last very long,” stated the presentation. “The underlying pavement and soil problems would not be fixed.”
Before moving ahead with drawing up plans for next year’s road construction project, the city and hired consultant CBS² are seeking feedback on the recommended option to overhaul the road.
Eau Claire residents are able to ask questions or raise concerns about the plan to Ness and project manager John Beckfield at CBS² via phone or email until April 23.