Downtown repairs on schedule
By Tom Larson
It will continue to be tough navigating in Morris' downtown area over the next few weeks, but work is progressing on schedule.
City Engineer Jay Fier said phase three work -- an L-shaped section of East 6th Street and Oregon Avenue to City Hall -- began late this week, and that underground work on East 5th Street and Oregon is almost completed.
Phase four work involves a single section of East 7th Street from Oregon to Atlantic Avenue, he said.
The projects are expected to be completed and paved this fall, with a final layer of bituminous scheduled to be put down next summer.
City Manager Blaine Hill said summer weather was near-perfect for the 2008 projects downtown and on College Avenue. Work on College Avenue was started first this spring so it would be completed when the University of Minnesota, Morris began fall classes.
In addition to replacing water mains and sanitary and storm sewers, the streets downtown will be leveled out. Examples are a low spot near Pizza Ranch which required pedestrians to step up about a foot to reach the sidewalk. Another is the severe crown on Oregon Avenue between 5th and 6th streets will be leveled, and sidewalks will be widened so that utility poles that had been parking spots in the street now will be in the sidewalk, Hill said.
"When the whole thing is done, that area is going to be pretty level," he said. "It's really going to be nice."
Residents have been inconvenienced trying to weave around the work to get to some east side businesses. Fier said that while it's difficult to direct traffic through the work zones, it's not entirely prohibited.
"If it looks like you can drive on it, you can drive on it," he said.
Hill said he's heard very few complaints about the projects, and that the public is invited to a weekly meeting, at 8:30 a.m. Thursdays, at which Fier will explain the project and take questions. So far, no one has shown for the Thursday meetings.
"I think people understand what's going on," he said.
Lights have been ordered that will be installed along Oregon Avenue while the street and utility work continues, and that the city also has completed other "side" projects during the summer on East 7th Street and Green River Road.
Hill said the Green River Road project was an example of why residents' feedback is vital to city planning.
The city received an anonymous note asking why the parking along Green River Road was on the south side of the street when the park and tennis courts were on the other side. Hill and Fier checked it out and changed it.
"It's something that never came up before," Hill said. "It was a great idea, so we flipped it."