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Bumpy Tomahawk-Area Stretch On Highway 51 To Be Repaired In 2020


Drivers on southbound Highway 51 near Tomahawk often feel like they’re driving on a washboard.

In the winter, a phenomenon called road tenting leads to a bumpy ride.

But the Wisconsin DOT is planning a major project to reconstruct the highway next year.

Road tenting occurs in the winter, when water seeps into cracks deep in the pavement structure.

“When water freezes, it expands, which then pushes the pavement up like a tent.  That’s essentially how  you can picture it.  That stretch out on [Highway] 51 has a significant amount of tenting out there during the winter months in that case.  Come spring, most of it goes away.  Every year, it keeps coming back,” said DOT Project Manager Jesse Jefferson.

Starting in May, a DOT project will remove the top seven and a half inches of asphalt from the road, make repairs to the substructure, and repave the highway.

“We’ll go through and make some repairs to that pavement foundation, which is suspect to the freeze-thaw tenting that we’re seeing out there,” Jefferson said.  “Then, we’ll replace all of the existing pavement in that area, all seven and a half inches, and it will be back up and new by the end of summer.”

In the summer, all traffic will be detoured to northbound Highway 51, with one lane going in each direction.

“There will be some traffic constraints out there, but we’ll do our best to get through it and definitely thank the public in advance for your patience, because there may be a couple periods out there where it gets a little busy,” Jefferson said.

All lanes will be kept open during the busy Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day weekends.

The $8 million project will be complete by mid to late September.  Jefferson said the work should last 15 to 25 years.