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In This Together case study - US 53 (Rose St.)
La Crosse, La Crosse County


Super 8 Motel with sign reading, "Smile - 100 days left of road project."

Super 8 Motel with sign reading, "Smile - 100 days left of road project."

Project information

Few highway improvement projects are as memorable as the rebuilding of Rose Street (US 53) that occurred in La Crosse during 2001.

The mile-long project widened driving lanes, added a center turning lane and new concrete pavement, upgraded intersections, replaced storm sewer and water mains, and included streetscaping features such as decorative lighting, colored and stamped concrete, brick pavers and trees.

The $3.6 million reconstruction project is still discussed over coffee due to the efforts of merchants on the stretch, who formed a special group and worked together to keep customers coming through their doors while roadwork was underway.

Highlighted as a "model effort" by the La Crosse Tribune, the Rose Street project was lauded for cooperation between business owners, the prime contractor (Harry Viner Inc.) and WisDOT.

The merchants set themselves apart from those in other communities by:

  • Pooling financial resources and collecting more than $16,000 for marketing efforts.
  • Developing their own marketing plan that included printing maps and coupons.
  • Using a smile face as a logo and erecting it on specially designed signs throughout the project. The signs kept drivers updated on the number of blocks left as they traveled through the work zone.
  • Sponsoring a lunch for the construction crew, providing free bratwurst, hamburgers, potato chips, drinks and dessert. Employees from the businesses and the La Crosse Area Convention and Visitors' Bureau helped serve the feast.
  • Featuring special messages on marquees in the work zone. At the Super 8 Motel, a countdown to contract completion reminded everyone that the mess and inconvenience were only temporary. "Smile - 100 days left of road project," it read at one point.
  • Parking full-size mobile billboards at various locations on the project. One shouted, "Road Open All Summer" and another, "Thank You."
  • Holding an official ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the opening of this enhanced route.

The businesses on Rose Street garnered considerable attention from their willingness to turn lemons into lemonade. Their upbeat attitudes seemed to spill over to motorists, who displayed a heightened amount of patience in the work zone.

True to the positive attitude displayed by Rose Street merchants throughout the five-month reconstruction effort, a portable message board at Edwardo's Pizza Wagon summed up the project when work was complete. "Rose Street is beautiful!" it read, "Thanks Viners and the DOT."

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Last modified: November 6, 2012

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