Healthy reroute?

(First published in the November 15, 2018 issue of City Pages)

The YMCA/Aspirus downtown project could hinge on whether city council approves a road closure and the state approves the reroute


The $40 million Aspirus/YMCA project hinges on closing part of McIndoe Street, which means rerouting Hwy. 52 traffic down Scott Street (shown here), which would be converted to two wider travel lanes.

Very little opposition was heard to a plan announced by the Woodson YMCA and Aspirus to build a major $40 million expansion and clinic in downtown Wausau. But one of the steps needed to complete that plan hasn’t gone as smoothly: closing part of McIndoe Street, which is a state Hwy. 52 thoroughfare through the city.

But city officials and leaders of the YMCA and Aspirus hope that’s largely settled as the council later this month could approve the road closure to allow the expansion to start.

The closure is being requested because the expanded YMCA campus would cover multiple city blocks. Eliminating that section of McIndoe drew the ire of Cloverbelt Credit Union, because it would have closed off an entrance and eliminated the credit union’s address. A compromised was reached to close only the block between Second and Third streets.

The other challenge of closing the road is that it’s a state highway, which would have to be rerouted. The current plan being worked on between the city and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation would reroute Highway 52 (westbound) onto Scott Street. That would involve changing the street to two wide travel lanes, down from its current three lanes.

Not everyone on the city’s Capital Improvements and Street Maintenance Committee was ready to make the closure happen. Committee member Mary Thao says she wanted more information about the alternatives. “My need to slow down is not because I’m trying to stop something great from happening,” Thao says. “I want to remind us that the decisions we made in the past with Thomas and the riverfront, some of them have been costly decisions for us.”

Public Works Director Eric Lindman told the committee that while the final traffic study on rerouting the highway isn’t yet complete, city staff has been working with DOT officials and both parties believe that rerouting Hwy. 52 on Scott Street is the preferred option.

Committee member Lisa Rasmussen says she felt it was time to move the project forward, considering the multiple meetings already held on the issue, and that the proposers haven’t asked any money from the city, despite it being a $40 million project. “I don’t think this community should slow down this process when there is so much overwhelming public support,” Rasmussen says.