Archive for Thursday, February 9, 2006

Main St. phasing reworked

February 9, 2006

City officials say they're still working with the Kansas Department of Transportation to try everything they can to reduce the amount of time it will take to complete a major road construction project due to begin this spring on Main Street.

Public Works director John Young told about 90 business representatives last week that phasing of the 2.33-mile, $11.3 million Main Street System Enhancement project continues to be reworked.

"One thing you need to understand: The sequencing has changed in the past couple of months. It is still being worked on," Young said. "The driving force for that is that we're looking for ways to reduce the amount of time this project takes."

Young's comments were delivered Friday, Feb. 3, during a presentation at the city's second annual Salads and Solutions business appreciation luncheon at Lansing Community Center.

The Kansas Department of Transportation and city are working jointly on the project, which will stretch from just north of Gilman Road to Connie Street. Improvements include widening Main Street from Connie to Ida streets to include a center turn lane, rebuilding the bridge over 7-Mile Creek, reconstructing medians from Gilman Road to Ida Street and constructing a "reverse frontage road" from West Mary Street to West Kansas Avenue.

Construction won't take place along the entire route throughout what's expected to be a project that will last through two full construction seasons. Instead, work will be done on the project in four separate phases.

"All this phasing is still on the table, and we'll be working through that and we'll let you know," Young said.

He said this week that the city had a goal of the project being complete by Thanksgiving of 2007. "If we can cut any time off of that, we will," he said.

Young said he expected bids for the project to be opened about March 16,with the earliest possible start of construction about April 15. More likely, he said, would be a May starting date.

Before actual construction begins, though, crews will begin popping up along Main Street to begin the process of relocating utilities out of the path.

"You'll see some of that in the next couple of weeks," Young said. "Within a month, you'll see it probably start in earnest, there'll be quite a bit. There may, in fact, be some lane closures, temporary lane closures from time to time for the safety of the workers."

Young told the businesspeople that while the city was exploring other ways of reducing the amount of time the project will require, its hands are tied. The Transportation Department, he said, will be paying 80 percent of the cost of the project. Like the city, its funding sources are limited so any time-reduction strategies that would drive up the cost of the project will be closely watched by the state.

"Anytime we significantly limit the realistic time for completion, contractors increase their bids to acquire the additional needed resources and protect themselves from the risk of liquidated damages or disincentives," he said.

One suggestion that Young's heard repeatedly is the idea of construction crews working at night. Such an idea, he said, probably wouldn't fly for several reasons:

¢ KDOT typically will pay for night work only for certain types of construction, such as paving or overpass work on roads with higher daytime traffic volumes than Main Street. ¢ Night construction work typically isn't done in proximity to residential areas due to noise. Plus, city code currently limits construction on public projects from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

¢ It's unlikely any competitive bids would be received for required "round-the-clock" work.

In addition to Young' presentation, Mayor Kenneth Bernard updated the businesspeople on actions the city would undertake to try to help them through the project.

Those include:

¢ Hiring a fulltime project liaison who would be the "go-to guy" for questions or concerns about construction.

¢ Using the city's resources, including Channel 2 and the city's Web site, plus newspapers, fliers and email lists to keep the public up to date on progress of the project.

¢ Relaxing enforcement of the city's sign ordinance to allow businesses to erect temporary signs during construction.

¢ Erecting "Support Your Local Business" signs and directional signs to businesses during construction.

¢ Promote in area newspapers a "Savings Program." The city would conduct an advertising campaign for participating businesses that would offer discounted merchandise during construction.

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