Muskego — Janesville Road, the four-year highway project undertaken by Waukesha County, is supposed to be completed by next week, and it's time to celebrate.
Not one but two ribbon cuttings will be held Thursday, June 26, for the 2.5-mile project that extended from Moorland Road to Racine Avenue. Besides rebuilding the road from the ground up and widening it, bicycle lanes and sidewalks were added.
Because Janesville is viewed as the heart of Muskego, special efforts were made to beautify it. For one thing, overhead wires were buried and decorative lights and paving were installed. Striking monuments that hold shiny metal cattails that harken back to the city's lakes now stand on several boulevards along the road, flowers will be at their feet as the summer goes on.
Planters between the sidewalks and the curbs also will soon be abundant with flowers and Janesville Road is festooned with bushes, flower beds and benches from which to enjoy the summer sun splashing on the flowers.
Two major corners of the thoroughfare received special treatment from the Muskego Woman's Club. The organization gave $12,000 to beautify Parkland Drive and Lannon Drive intersections with Janesville Road. Two trios of decorative benches, flower planters and decorative refuse containers were installed at each of the two important corners.
The Woman's Club had wanted to support the landmark project in some way and creating a beautiful place to sit and enjoy Muskego's comings and goings was just the thing, the club decided.
"We're thrilled to be able to help," said Dena Squaires, club president.
Speaking of the entire project, a very pleased Muskego Mayor Kathy Chiaverotti said, "I think it came out far more attractive than anyone thought."
"It has reignited community pride," she said. "And it's safe, number one, and it's welcoming, number two."
On a citywide level she said, "It has defined the main street, you know you've arrived somewhere," Chiaverotti said.
For years, people have said, "Where is our downtown?" she said. "This has helped define where our downtown really is — our main street."
Real estate broker Reno Berg with R&W Realty said the rebuilt road will help business.
"It has a nice boulevard arrangement," he said, and it has eliminated the bottlenecks that have discouraged customers from patronizing Janesville Road businesses at rush hours.
"Lannon and Janesville was a real nightmare," he said.
Waukesha County Executive Dan Vrakas said the county knew how badly the city needed Janesville, a county road, to be reconstructed.
"Janesville Road, which is right in the heart of the city is critical for economic development and public safety," Vrakas said in a news release announcing the ribbon cuttings. "This project represents the largest financial investment for a highway project ever made by Waukesha County and I'm very proud to see it come to fruition."
The total tab will be about $29 million from Moorland Road to Racine Avenue.
Although the project made Janesville Road a mess for drivers for years, it had a couple of upsides, even as the work progressed. One was that it made policy-makers focus on branding the city and the other was the birth of the popular outdoor festival that became known as Jammin' on Janesville.
To find a branding or a personality for the city, leaders looked toward Muskego's abundant lakes for inspiration. The waving cattails on the city logo and the blue of the lakes are themes that have been used before, but now those lake themes are emphasized up and down Janesville Road.
The monuments in the boulevards will not only hold the silver cattails but the blue fins on the monuments themselves will be reminiscent of sails that say "water," Chiaverotti said. In addition, all the benches and waste receptacles are decorated with silhouettes of the grasses that soften the edges of the community's lakes. Finally, the cages around the bulbs of the decorative street lights are meant to be reminders of the similar cages around the lights on boats, Chiaverotti said.
The branding touches are subtle but they are there, she said.
Foreseeing the rough waters ahead for businesses during Janesville Road reconstruction, the Muskego Area Chamber of Commerce originated Jammin' on Janesville, an outdoor music, food and fun fest. The Jam, held three times each summer, was originally meant to remind people that Janesville Road businesses need them especially during construction.
The figure of a man made of orange and white construction barrels was created as a mascot and a community-wide contest was held to name the barrel man. The winner was Randy Roadbot. He was at every Jam, but now that construction is over, Randy is retired.
But Jammin' on Janesville is going on for a fourth year. The first of two Jams was on June 6 and the second will be Aug. 1. This will be the first year that the city has not provided funding help. The community has flocked to Jammin' on Janesville with crowds bigger every time, Chiaverotti said.
Not only that, but Jammin' on Janesville seems to have been of some help to businesses, Chiaverotti said, as she is aware of no businesses that have thrown in the towel due to lack of customers during construction.
But whether there is a Jam going on or not, she said, "I think the whole community will be happy they don't have to deal with construction vehicles or the mess, just enjoy the road and be happy. We all will be."
AT A GLANCE
Muskego and Waukesha County will celebrate the completion of Janesville Road reconstruction with two ribbon cuttings on Thursday, June 26:
· At 11 a.m. on the southeast corner of Janesville Road and Lannon Drive to celebrate the significant contribution by the Muskego Woman's Club for the planters, decorative benches and trash receptacles at this intersection and at Parkland Drive.
· At 11:30 a.m. in front of the Muskego Public Library, S73 W16663 Janesville Road, to celebrate completion of the entire project.
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