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Emergency Vehicles Maneuver Maze of Construction Around Medical Complex

Michelle Maternowski

It has not been easy to move through parts of Wauwatosa. The city occupies much of ground zero, when it comes to rebuilding the Zoo Interchange.

The state has been closing roadways and tearing down bridges – all resulting in major traffic tie-ups this summer.

Mike Thiel admits he was nervous, when he first heard about all the lane closures the state planned to make around the Milwaukee County Medical Complex. He’s director of security at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.

“I was very concerned. I head emergency management efforts and we have to ensure access to our emergency departments and our hospital in general for all of southeastern Wisconsin, to be able to get here,” Thiel says.

However, Thiel says the Department of Transportation has quelled his fears. He meets with representatives every other week, and they give him updates.

“It’s actually very well choreographed to ensure that we’re not doing things on the west side of the campus at the same time that we’re doing things on the east side. It seems like a lot of work and there are a lot of orange barrels but through traffic is always maintained,” Thiel says.

While Thiel says patients and emergency vehicles have had access to at least one end of the hospital during construction, Chris Anderson claims the trip has been taking a bit longer. Anderson works for Bell Ambulance. He says it transports about 15 patients a day to the Medical Complex.

“A typical transport to Froedtert Hospital may have been increased by four or five minutes but in my opinion it’s nothing that jeopardized safety or any patient outcomes, it was all very smooth,” Anderson says.

Anderson says he communicates with project managers once a week to learn where traffic may stall. He says the construction companies also email daily alerts and alternate routes.

Jim Case is Wauwatosa’s assistant fire chief. He says the DOT helped the fire department build alternate paths to use during peak traffic hours.

“A good example would be the parking lot of the United Health Care on Research Drive near Mayfair Road and Potter Road. They actually created an emergency egress roadway for us from that parking lot out onto Wisconsin Avenue, so we can use that for emergency responses,” Case says.

Case estimates response times have been about the same as they were before construction started. He says, at the end of summer, his department will analyze the data. However, in the not-too-distant future, a major new phase of the reconstruction will begin.

Ryan Luck oversees the Zoo Interchange project for the DOT. He says, while crews have reopened some lanes, they will soon block parts or all of the roadway running along the north side of the Medical Complex.

“The project nearest the Medical Complex on Watertown Plank, that project will be starting this fall and there will be some impact to Watertown Plank during that time in late 2013 and for most of 2014,” Luck says.

Luck says the DOT will invest heavily in signage and social media to advise people of alternate routes. He also expects the agency to continue holding weekly meetings with emergency responders until the entire project ends in 2018.

Marti was a reporter with WUWM from 1999 to 2021.