Major road reconstruction planned for downtown, retailers nervous
Planning is almost complete for the 4-million dollar replacement of main street, scheduled to begin in September.
Retailers are already voicing concern for the upcoming Nordic Drive road improvement project, a project that will replace not just the concrete road, but the sidewalks as well.
The project, which is scheduled to begin in September and be completed by the end of October 2013, will disrupt business as usual downtown.
According to Greg Lockwood project manager for Alaska's Department of Transportation, reconstruction of the the road, sidewalk replacements and accessibility upgrades, as well as storm drain work, will all be done at the same time.
The two-season reconstruction project is designed to affect only one block at a time beginning at East Dolphin and Nordic from Dolphin to First Street, and ending at Nordic and from Fram to Haugen Street.
“The planning is almost complete and the project will go out to bid sometime in May,” Lockwood said.
The $4-million project will be funded by the Federal Highway Administration, with the city providing a 9.03 percent match of $360,000.
“It will be broken down into segments, each segment will be complete before another segment begins,” Lockwood said.
With the large-scale project looming, local business are still looking at weeks of disruption.
“I don't know what can be said about it at this point,” said Ken Slavin, Trading Union President. “It's going to be a mess.”
Slavin added that he was concerned how his customers were going to get to his store during the construction, and also how other retailers and business were going to operate with the disruption of having the roadway and sidewalks torn up.
“I hope they will really think of the retailers and not just go with the lowest bidder. We want to be able to be in business and keep our employees working,” said Cynthia Mathisen, manager of Lee's Clothing.
Papa Bear's Pizza manager Scott Hurtt offered a cautiously optimistic outlook: “I'm just starting to think about this now. It may surprise me and work out great, or it may surprise and not. I don't know what time of the year it's going to happen. I'm waiting right now to see.”
DOT will require a timber bridge to replace the sidewalks during construction, Lockwood said. And the work would be done in a way to minimize impact during business hours. “They will either work outside of business hours, or build a temporary bridge,” he said.
Working on one side of the street at a time is also something that has been discussed, but so far, rejected. “You don't want to restrict the contract too much, because then the price goes way up,” Lockwood said.
The top of the list for improvements include ADA specifications. This includes new detectable warning tiles, which notify sight-impaired pedestrians of intersections. There is only one area slated for sewer main repair work, on North Dolphin Street, Lockwood said.
According to Karl Hagerman, Public Works Director for Petersburg, the reason this project has a higher priority than improvements to other roadways that are in worse shape, is due to the source of the funding.
“There are many street needs in Petersburg and not enough funds to go around. Prior funding sources tied to the timber sales from the National Forest have dried up and street funding is very hard to come by,” said Hagerman.
The downtown rebuild is not the only road improvement project on the books, Hagerman said.
“I will be looking to get a quote from a contractor for the paving of at least two streets this fiscal year,” he said. “Both Second Street and Odin Street will be receiving water and sewer upgrades this spring. It is my hope that reasonable pricing can be secured for asphalt paving of these two streets.”
“I have committed to doing some work on Unimak Street this spring to reconstruct the road surface on a portion of this road so that it is less susceptible to frost heaving and pot-holing,” he added.
The first draft of the public works budget for this next fiscal year had a line item request of $133,000 for road resurfacing, Hagerman said. This is aimed directly at gravel roads and improving the drainage and surface characteristics of the roads. “My original request has been cut to $65,000 due to the need to balance the City budget but I will still be looking to resurface several gravel roads in Petersburg in FY13,” he said.