By Mary Spicer
Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s long-awaited North Street Improvement Project made it through its first week of construction without a hitch, so to speak, and the first intersection to close down may re-open to traffic as soon as Wednesday.
Merchants toward the west end of downtown Meadville’s North Street corridor, where construction began last Monday at the Water Street intersection, have already learned two lessons.
The first lesson is that everyone directly involved with the project seems to be working hard to make a positive impression on the folks with which they’ve had contact.
The second is that it’s going to be dusty out there. Very dusty.
The second revelation didn’t come as much of a surprise, however, being as the first phase of the project involves digging a large trench through approximately 12 feet of dirt to reach and replace Meadville Area Sewer Authority’s sewer line.
“While the cars may be dusty when you look a them, we’ll clean them up and they’ll be ready to go,” Dane Lang, owner of Lang Motors, promised during an interview with the Tribune.
The first lesson may have contained more of an element of surprise. Lang described the workers as being “extremely conscientious” about installing signage guiding drivers around the construction zone as well as remarkably cooperative in general.
Down the street, Mark Brode, owner of the newly-opened Pennsylvania Sandwich Company just east of North Main Street, has also been positively impressed, even though actual digging hasn’t gotten anywhere near his shop.
“They’re all really nice,” Brode said of the construction crews. “They’re very accommodating. Everything’s good.”
During the first week of the project, Lang was already noticing a commercial upside. “The way they’re detoured, more traffic is driving by than we saw before,” he said. “I know we’ll get calls because people are driving past who may not come by regularly — and will see something in our lot.”
Construction hasn’t made it into the vicinity of Laurie’s Embroidery in the plaza just east of Park Avenue, either, but owner Laurie Davis is optimistic on several fronts.
“Personally, it’s going to be a pain to go through,” she said, “but you have to keep the end goal in mind — it’s going to be a beautiful street.
Furthermore, Davis added, “people can get to our parking lot without physically going onto North Street. We’re very accessible. When they close the street in front, people will have to be a bit creative, but they’ll find us.”
Gary Black, project manager for Showman Excavating of Waterford, the subcontractor in charge of the sewer portion of the project, hopes to have the Water Street intersection open to traffic by Wednesday. At that point, they’ll close down Market Street for the installation of the manhole in the middle of the street, establish the connections between the two manholes and then work in the direction of Park Avenue.
“There are a lot of utilities to work around,” he said, describing the conditions his crew is encountering underground. It’s the usual underground-type work in a town — we haven’t encountered any groundwater problems or anything like that.”
There are, however, lots of new lines, old lines and lines that have just been left behind over the years, he said. It’s normal stuff to find under a town that’s been around for awhile.
The first phase of the $10 million project involves removing and replacing the MASA sewer line running down the center line of North Street between Water and State streets. Current estimates call for that phase to be complete by July, with each block being re-opened to traffic as the installation is completed.
Once the new sewer line has been connected and tested, construction will return to the Water Street intersection. Following the same route, the remainder of the project — widening turning ratios at selected corners, replacing curbs and sidewalks, installing new decorative street lights and finally resurfacing the roadway — will continue through the end of the 2013 construction season.
If all goes as planned, work should be complete as far as the North Street intersection in 2013, at which point the entire roadway will be paved over and open to traffic. With the start of the 2014 construction season, work will continue. Again, if all goes as planned, the entire project may be complete as soon as July 2014.
Mary Spicer can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.