Over the past summer, Preston has seen a tremendous amount of road construction. Many challenges have arisen because of the construction, not the least of which is residents being unable to reach their own homes while the road is torn up.
The Twenty-14 project began on May 22, with breaking ground near the fire hall shortly after Trout Days. June rolled around, dumping rain almost every day, but thankfully, that did not greatly affect the project itself.
"We made pretty decent progress even with the weather in June. Work was delayed a week, but that was about all," noted Jim Bakken, Preston's public works director.
At that time, much of the work was digging for the water and sewer mains underneath the streets. But even with rain, that was not terribly affected, although the workers were digging in mud instead of dry earth. For the most part, the underground portion of the construction is nearing completion, according to Bakken, although Winona and Washington Streets still have utility work to be done.
One other issue that put the construction slightly behind was the gas leak on Aug. 20. The contractor accidentally sheared off the top of a protruding gas line. Though the leak was minor and slow, it did halt some of the construction for a time.
"The gas leak only affected the south project. It was shut down for about a day while repairs were made," Bakken explained.
In spite of the dousing the land received in June, the weather has held up well for the workers since then.
The Twenty-14 project is divided into two sections, the North project and the South project. The north project includes everything to the north of Fillmore Street, West of St. Paul and south of Chatfield. The south project consists of the streets south and west of City Hall including Houston, Main and Washington streets to the South Hill and Judy Lane.
Along with the reclaiming project near the fire hall, the project began at South Hill and spread from there. The contractors divided the construction zone into areas containing four or five blocks to be completed at a time. The underground work proved to be the slowest part of the project where workers fixed sewer and water systems and other services in the area before laying the gravel and moving on to the next portion.
"There are 16 blocks involved in the North project and the South project has 11 blocks. Currently, six blocks in the southern portion are aggregate, or passable, although three of them are hard to get to. In the northern portion, nine blocks are aggregate," Bakken explained.
The goal of completion is to finish all the utilities, water and sewer lines and lay gravel before the winter sets in. There will be one detail that will remain unfinished until the next year. That is the blacktopping.
Bakken stated the substantial completion date is Monday, Oct. 13, and explained that means that everything will be done except the last layer of bituminous. The curb, gutter, sidewalk, boulevard restoration will all be done.
The final completion date, he added, will be Friday, June 15, 2015. This means the contractors will return in the spring to fix any settling or other issues and will then apply the final layer of bituminous.
Two layers of blacktop will be laid. The first will cover the gravel and is expected to be finished by the temporary end project date in the fall. During the winter, Preston residents will be able to drive on blacktop, but not on the final result. The second layer will be laid after the snow melts next year.
One clarification for the record, Preston is currently undergoing not one, but two construction projects simultaneously. Of course, one of these is the Twenty-14 project. But there is also a construction project on County 17, or St. Paul Street, as well.
"Not many people know there are two separate projects," said City Administrator Joe Hoffman. "The County 17 project goes from Fillmore Street to the bridge."
In this construction, the city has taken little part. The workers did some storm water work around Main Street, but they are now putting on an aggregate base of crushed rock.
"The County 17 project is using state aid. The city is only paying for one half of the sidewalk and curb. Everything else is done by the county," Hoffman explained.
One noticeable change in this part of the construction is the new bump-out curbs being installed. This is the only section of the city which will have those new curbs, but it may seem like the road has narrowed just a bit, which it has.
"The county brought it up to us asking if we had any objections to the bump-outs. These bump-outs are safer for pedestrians because they can stand out farther looking into the traffic," Hoffman said.
And the bump-outs are also ADA compliant.
The county's goal initially was to complete their project last year, but it did not work out. However, with all this construction, businesses in that area have been greatly affected.
"The big concern is the access to those businesses. It is unfortunate that they have been so affected, but that goes with the territory with street work," Hoffman said. "Projects like this need to be done in the summer during the construction season, which is also the businesses' big season. And big projects like this are only done every 25 to 50 years."
With all the craziness of the construction, those residents and businesses greatly affected by it have all been taking the work in stride, which has not gone unnoticed by city officials.
"There are 150 affected properties in town. Our hat goes off to them because it is an inconvenience to not be able to pull into driveways and unload groceries, park somewhere else, mail not delivered to the houses, live with temporary water and dust," Hoffman said.
"The people have been very patient with this project and it is very much appreciated,” he concluded.