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Onalaska to get part of Hwy. S in anticipation of Mayo development

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La Crosse County Administrative Center

La Crosse County Administrative Center

Onalaska is willing to have part of what now is La Crosse County Hwy. S become the city’s responsibility, with the county in return committing to do more than $127,000 in seal-coating work on city streets by late 2016.

Major development is expected along the 7,034-foot stretch of road from Redwood Street north to the Hwy. SN intersection, so it makes sense for the city to have control, said Jarrod Holter, Onalaska city engineer. The entire section is within Onalaska city limits and would become an extension of Sand Lake Road.

Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic purchased 187.4 acres along the route in 2014, then this past May filed a traffic impact study with the city that indicated potential plans for a new campus that could accommodate about 3,800 employees.

While the jurisdictional transfer will mean the city pays for all maintenance, Holter said it will allow Onalaska to more easily modify the road for whatever is to come, without having to go to the county for authorization.

“It’s a timely transfer,” Holter said, adding that the county first sought the move a decade ago. “It will be a challenge, but with the pending development, we feel it’s a need.”

The city already does mowing along much of that stretch, Holter said, and is responsible for maintaining the roundabout installed at the Riders Club Road intersection in 2011.

The county will fill cracks in that section before the shift is made, but other future upgrades to the road will be postponed until after the development is set, to avoid potentially tearing up new pavement for access routes, Holter said.

Knowing the highway now is not in optimal shape, the county pledged to do $127,619 in chipping and seal-coating on Onalaska streets as compensation for the future work needed on the Hwy. S section, Holter said.

Even with the seal-coating expense, county Highway Commissioner Ron Chamberlain “highly” recommended making the switch.

“Any time you can remove maintenance and resurfacing headaches, it’s a good thing,” Chamberlain told the county Public Works and Infrastructure Committee on Monday.

A rural highway reconstruction can cost $400,000 to $450,000 a mile, Chamberlain said, “so this one’s a pretty economical deal for the county.”

Because the seal-coating expense was not included in the 2015 budget, the county will have until November 2016 to complete the Onalaska work, Chamberlain said. City officials have yet to determine which streets would be done under the project, Holter said.

The county committee on Monday unanimously approved making the exchange. It goes before the Executive Committee on Wednesday and the full county board July 16.

The Onalaska City Council is expected to take up the matter next Tuesday. If all sides agree, the transfer would take effect Sept. 1.

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