The city of Oconomowoc faced some heavy challenges when WIS 16 was in serious need of reconstruction, right in the heart of downtown. Area businesses understood the need for the new road, but had large concerns about accessibility to their storefronts and keeping business profitable.
Understanding the need for the reconstruction, business owners and people within the community wanted to keep construction to a maximum of one year, which meant completely closing WIS 16 to local and through traffic.
Working closely with business owners and the Chamber of Commerce, project managers and construction crews worked to minimize the project's impact on businesses.
For example, even though most businesses had access from rear entrances, crews worked to keep the sidewalks open as long as possible, utilizing orange fencing along both sides of the street and make-shift crosswalks marked with orange signs to block off areas where pedestrians could still walk and access front entrances to businesses along WIS 16.
The city provided marketing funds for promoting downtown during construction. Newspaper advertising, billboards on WIS 16, TV commercials, radio advertising and raffle drawings for gift certificates ran from June through September to inform the community that businesses were still open and to entice consumers to continue to utilize services downtown.
Businesses organized a downtown business group called Downtown Oconomowoc Merchants Association (DOMA) that held planning meetings prior to construction and for the duration of the project. The group created large signs listing specific businesses and a local detour route. The signs were displayed at both ends of the project. Other signage provided directions to alternate parking lots.
DOMA also coordinated "First Friday" events. On the first Friday of every month during construction, some businesses stayed open later than normal and displayed items from their stores on the sidewalk. Bands and other live entertainment performed. Events not only provided a way to do business, but also served a social function to bring the community together.
Because of the tight project timeline, crews worked long hours on the job site. On numerous occasions, businesses provided lunch and dinner for WisDOT and construction staff.
While business surely did not run as usual, the teamwork on the part of all involved made the project run as smoothly as possible. Both construction crews and business owners were able to develop an understanding for each other's roles within the project, and very few complaints were voiced.