Havre Daily News
With some help from the state, property owners along Fourth Avenue are moving forward with a project to fill in old coal chutes beneath a vaulted sidewalk that a pregnant woman fell through two years ago.
Vaulted sidewalks are common in downtown Havre, as are the glass skylights that provide illumination in the underground storage areas.
The project involves the sidewalk on the west side of Fourth Avenue between Second and Third streets. Workers from Bill Henry Construction of Havre will tear out the old sidewalk from the alley south to the intersection of Fourth Avenue and Third Street, and fill the vault with foam blocks and a layer of gravel before pouring new cement, Bear Paw Development planning director Craig Erickson said. The majority of the project cost is being paid for with state Community Transportation Enhancement Program funds, which are allocated to local governments by the Montana Department of Transportation.
The work, including engineering, will cost about $66,000 Erickson said. Property owners are picking up the tab for the matching funds, which total about $9,000, he added.
Vaulted sidewalks are troublesome and costly to replace, he said.
"They're wickedly expensive," Erickson said. "This is not your typical residential sidewalk project."
What's not expensive are the foam blocks workers will use to fill the vaults. Erickson said they are cheaper than dirt.
Dirt bulges outward when it is compressed, which would create a problem, Erickson said. The foam, on the other hand, will compress as pressure is applied. That is an attractive option, considering the ages of the surrounding buildings and their foundations.
"It doesn't go outward," he said. "It's a relatively new technology."
The project replaces the sidewalk that Havre resident Stacey Keller, who was four months pregnant, fell through in July 2003. She could not be reached for comment.