Havre Daily News
Local business owners know the massive, two-year First Street reconstruction project will be “ugly,” but know the changes will be worth it in the end.
“We've all got to hold hands and get through
this together,” Havre Area Chamber of Commerce executive director Debbie Vandeberg said Wednesday in a meeting with local business owners and Montana Department of Transportation officials.
Vandeberg said the chamber will do whatever possible to assist Havre businesses during the project, set to begin in 2007 and last at least two years.
“I wasn't here in the '70s when the road went from two lanes to four. This is going to be bigger and uglier,” she said.
“We know it's negative,” she said of the impact of the construction on local businesses.
Vandeberg said businesses need to work together and think of the positives associated with the completed project.
The $20 million to $25 million reconstruction, which MDT officials have called the largest urban project in the state's history, will involve 33 blocks of First Street in Havre. The roadway will be completely rebuilt, and water, sewer and storm sewer lines will be replaced. Sidewalks will be revamped, lighting updated and landscaping will be developed.
Vandeberg encouraged businesses to have fun with the construction with “backdoor sales,” “hard hat sales” and offical pools on the construction end date.
She said now is the time to start planning
for adjustments like employee carpooling and alternative access to business buildings.
John Pavsek, senior transportation engineer for Morrison Maierle Inc., said the efforts will give the community a “sense of pride by improving the visual character.”
MDT workers have been adjusting the project to the needs members of the Havre community voiced in past meetings and the results will look similar to how the highway does today, MDT district supervisor Mick Johnson said.
One item included on the community's wish list discussed at past meeting was street lighting improvements. Pavsek said ornamental dark green lamps will line the the sides of the road in the downtown business district.
Other aesthetic improvements in downtown include new trash bins, benches and planters.
New signs will be installed at the east and west entrances to Havre along the highway.
All of the First Street corridor's traffic signals will be replaced with “state of the art” equipment, Pavsek said, with the exception of the newest one on 14th Street, which will receive minor modifications.
New curbs and gutters also are part of the plan.
Pavsek said workers will replace the sidewalks above Havre Beneath the Streets and install concrete walls to strengthen the vaulted sidewalks.
He said the most common reaction he has seen from Havre business owners is something along the lines of, “I know it's going to be ugly but get it done as quickly as possible and get out.”
Efforts to quicken the project will include a contract that gives bidders more money if the project is done earlier than scheduled or less if not done on-time and nocturnal construction.
Johnson said MDT has been stockpiling acres of pipe for the reconstruction and the project might need cement brought in by the train load.
To help with parking issues, the city has donated land off of 12th Avenue to be used for a new 20-space parking lot.
Pavsek said the on-street parking on First Street between Fourth and Seventh avenues will be removed to make room for a center turn lane but the number of new spots exceeds the number of those taken away.
Pavsek said the efforts to maintain traffic flow during construction will be difficult. For large projects, MDT normally shuts down all traffic, he added.
Traffic management goals, he said, include maintaining of two-way traffic, keeping access open to all properties and minimizing traffic shifts.
Pavsek said workers will move traffic flow to one side of the road while working on the opposite side, then switch sides and then will have traffic on both sides while working in the middle lanes.
Doug Wilmot, MDT construction engineer, said the work will most likely be done in relatively small sections.
“The whole thing won't be ripped up at the same time,” Wilmot said.
Johnson said MDT will work to keep traffic flowing “as best as we can.”
MDT plans on hiring a public relations firm to help communication between the department and the community, Johnson said.
During the construction, MDT will broadcast recorded construction information over their 1610 AM radio station.
Concrete will be used to repave the roadway. It's more expensive than asphalt, but it lasts longer, Pavsek said.
Businesses will receive advanced warning of water and sewer service disruptions, Pavsek said.
The officials said many questions that remain unanswered, such as where the construction will begin, will be filled in by the selected contractor.
The project is set to go out for bids early next year.
Construction should begin in April or May 2007 at the earliest, Pavsek said. He said the plan is for completion in summer of 2008.