By Jerome Tharaud/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
When a list of improvements planned for First Street in downtown Havre was tallied up this summer, project planners saw that the combination of historic-style lighting, colored concrete crossings, planters, shrubs and trees, and other features would cost about $121,000, well over what the $100,000 budget available from the Montana Department of Transportation for the project.
But Havre will not be forced to pick and choose because Mick Johnson, district administrator for the Montana Department of Transportation, will increase the landscaping budget to as much as $150,000, according to the engineering firm on the project.
John Pavsek, senior transportation engineer at Helena-based Morrison-Maierle Inc., told the Havre City Council about the pledge of extra funding at a presentation about the project Monday night.
"This is a major project for Havre and they'd like to see Havre get as much as they possibly can," Pavsek said after the meeting. "Today (Johnson) indicated he would go up to $150,000."
Johnson could not be reached for comment today.
On Monday night the City Council voted 8-0 to approve the firm's preliminary recommendations, which are intended to bring a more aesthetically pleasing street to Havre residents, from the street lights above their heads to the pavement beneath their feet.
They include replacing the existing 40-foot-tall street lamps with 22 35-foot historic-style lights at a total cost of about $43,000.
Colored concrete crosswalks proposed at eight intersections would stand out and would make a "huge difference," said Bruce Lutz, a landscape architect and planner for Sitescape Associates, the Columbia Falls-based firm hired by Morrison-Maierle to make the designs for the improvements. The crosswalks would be installed for free by MDT, without dipping into the landscape budget.
The sidewalks would be enhanced with 20 new planter containers at about $1,000 each, and new benches and trash receptacles at a cost of $6,000.
About $25,000 worth of trees and $2,000 worth of shrubs would also be purchased or landscaping.
Plans also include two 6-by-12-foot concrete and metal welcome monuments at the east and west ends of town featuring Havre's logo, at a cost of about $25,000.
That means a grand total of about $121,200. All of those costs will be paid for by MDT.
The improvements will initially happen on First Street between Montana and Seventh avenues, Lutz said.
He stressed the aesthetic benefits of some of the improvements, like the movable concrete planters at the corners of several of the intersections, which he said could have flowers in the summer.
"I can't stress how much impact that can have on a downtown," Lutz said. "It's a real nice element if you can pull it off."
He said the monuments at the ends of town are "everybody's favorite."
"I guess we feel this would be a handsome addition both to the east and west end," he said.
Planners are still discussing whether to use metal halide lights - which produce a white light - to replace the existing high-pressure sodium lights, which shed a more yellow light, Lutz said.
The improvements are part of an MDT plan to rebuild about 2 miles of U.S. Highway 2, which is called First Street where it passes through Havre, from Ninth Avenue West near the city water treatment plant to 22nd Avenue East. The entire project will cost between $12 million and $15 million, Pavsek said.
The road will be resurfaced in concrete. A major component of the project - about $5.5 million of it - will be to increase the capacity of the water collection system to solve a water drainage problem the entire city experiences during heavy storms or snowmelt.
The next step will be to start developing more detailed planning documents, Pavek said.
Lutz said the design will be finished in the next year.
The project will be put out for competitive bids early in 2006, and construction is expected to start in 2006, Pavsek said. The project is expected to take about two years to finish once work starts, he said.
The street in its current route was first built in 1952, and has not had major repairs since 1979.