By Mary Spicer
Monday has been officially named as the starting date for construction on Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s long-awaited North Street Improvement Project in downtown Meadville.
On the drawing boards for more years than anyone cares to remember, the project has been designed to result in improved traffic flow along the corridor that serves as the northern boundary of the City of Meadville’s business district. With additional features including new curbs, sidewalks and decorative lighting, city officials are forecasting a major aesthetic improvement along the entire project route, which extends along North Street from Water Street to slightly beyond the State Street intersection.
One of the first orders of business is establishing a “permanent detour” designed to allow traffic simply passing through town to avoid the entire construction zone. Detour signs will remain in place through the close of the current construction season, then be taken down and erected again at the beginning of the 2014 construction season. Plans call for the entire project to be completed during the summer of 2014.
Traffic approaching Meadville from the east on Route 27 will have two options. From Washington Street, traffic can (Leg 1) proceed onto State Street to Grove Street to Arch Street to the French Creek Parkway or (Leg 2) turn onto North Grant Street, proceed along Randolph Street to Terrace Street and then continue onto either French Creek Parkway or Spring Street. Because all streets included on the detour route are two-way, traffic approaching from the opposite direction will simply follow the same path in reverse.
Initiated to improve traffic flow along the heavily-traveled North Street corridor and funded by federal, state and local dollars, the $10 million project is expected to proceed in two phases. During Phase I, Meadville Area Sewer Authority line buried 10 to 12 feet below the surface of the road will be removed and replaced — manhole by manhole, block by block. The goal, according to Joe Hosey, vice president of estimating and project management for the Erie-based Joseph McCormick Construction Co. Inc., the general contractor for the project, is to finish a block and put down a road surface that will carry car and truck traffic and then repeat.
Local detours will be established on an intersection-by-intersection basis as work proceeds.
According to Gary Black of Showman Excavating of Waterford, the subcontractor handling the sewer portion of the project, no one will be left without sewer service overnight, although each block will be closed to traffic 24 hours per day until work on the block is complete. “Once it closes, it stays closed until the block is done,” Black said.
Plans call for the sewer portion of the project to be complete by sometime in July.
Once the sewer installation has been tested and put into operation, Phase II begins — back at the intersection of Water and North streets.
Working one block at a time, storm sewers will be replaced, new signal lights and decorative street lighting will be installed, new curbs and sidewalks will be put into place and the turning ratios at certain corners will be widened to allow large trucks to make turns without obstruction.
If Phase II proceeds as planned, each block will once again be re-opened to traffic as work progresses.
“We’re obviously pleased that the project will officially under way,” Meadville Mayor Christopher Soff said during a recent interview. “Knowing that there will be some temporary inconveniences, I’m fully confident that we will all get through it and, when the project is completed, we will be extremely pleased with the results.”
Noting that the detours will provide an opportunity to see parts of town that drivers might not ordinarily see, Soff called for drivers to exercise extreme caution throughout the construction process. “Among all the distractions that we have with our driving, please, above all, be aware of where you are and what you’re doing to ensure the safety of the workers, pedestrians, other motorists — and yourself.”
Mary Spicer can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at email@example.com.