Roundabout downtown

(First published in the October 25, 2018 issue of City Pages)

Consultant’s ideas for reconfiguring area include a roundabout at Forest and Grand


Toole Design renderings show Forest Street along the mall as two-way, with bicycle and pedestrian accommodations.

Everyone familiar with Wausau knows that intersection of Forest Street and Grand Avenue is a pain—where Grand curves around River Valley Bank and the courthouse, and turns into Sixth Street. Good luck trying to merge on/off Sixth, particularly during a busy time of day.

A roundabout at that intersection was one of several suggested improvements made by Toole Design, hired to re-envision the roughly 20-block area around Wausau Center Mall. Its main focus was on Forest, Washington, First and Fifth streets.

The Forest/Grand Avenue intersection changes were perhaps the most drastic of Toole’s proposals, but it’s an example of the challenge Toole Design consultants highlighted for downtown: The current street design essentially routes traffic around downtown, and not to it.

The proposed changes also include redesigning a number of roads to be two-way instead of one-way. A before/after image the consultants created showed the difference: Now, the majority of downtown streets are one-way; under the new plan, two-way streets would comprise the majority. Forest Street would become completely two-way under the plan, and Fifth Street from Scott to Forest would be two-way. Washington Street in front of the mall also would eventually become a two-way.

Another intersection eyed for improvement: The crazy five-street intersection of River Drive, Forest, First and Washington streets. Under the plan, River Drive would connect at a separate intersection to Stewart Avenue a block to the west.

These concepts will be presented to the city council next month; and some of the design ideas depend on what happens with the mall itself. Archive DS designed some ideas for what a redeveloped mall area could look like and Toole consultants kept that plan in mind. But many of the improvements can happen regardless of what happens with the mall.