New year, new road; Cascade construction plans progressLast week marked a milestone on the long path to rebuilding Cascade Avenue from Spruce through Sixth streets: The city released the now-completed, final design for construction bids.
By: Debbie Griffin, River Falls Journal
Last week marked a milestone on the long path to rebuilding Cascade Avenue from Spruce through Sixth streets: The city released the now-completed, final design for construction bids.
City Engineer Reid Wronski says after interested firms look at the 160 11x17-sized pages, they reply with a bid.
River Falls will open all the bids Feb. 9. Shortly afterward a contractor will be picked.
Wronski says the major project is set to start in April but agrees weather could influence the schedule.
Citizens will notice when things start to happen -- Cascade Avenue between Spruce and Sixth streets will close as crews pulverize the entire road surface and clear trees.
The project demands new utilities in most places -- water, sewer and electrical -- and will include digging as much as eight feet down in some places.
Wronski confirms that the construction plan calls for that stretch of Cascade to be closed throughout the duration of the project and to re-open about Nov. 1.
“You will not be driving down Cascade,” he said.
The project affects and involves much of River Falls’ population: City residents who live in the neighborhood or drive on Cascade; university students, faculty, staff and visitors; tourists and other kinds of business patrons; churches; and the state DOT.
Wronski began as city engineer in 1999 and says the Cascade improvement project was already being discussed back then.
Nobody is sure of Cascade’s age, but all indicators say it was built 50-70 years ago.
The water main under Cascade is grossly undersized by modern standards. It is four inches in diameter. Its replacement will be 12 inches around and have 18 times the capacity.
Some streetlights along Cascade have extension cords running between them, and the pavement has become grossly uneven from multiple layers of asphalt.
Wronski said about the road, “It’s been overlayed so many times, it isn’t ADA compliant.”
He said public meetings about the project began in 2007, with River Falls asking ‘stakeholders’ how they would rebuild the road -- as is or with changes?
“What we decided to do with this project is have a process where we bring people together,” said Wronski.
Feedback told the city that parking and aesthetics are important to people.
Nobody wanted less parking, so it became a priority to design a parking-neutral project even though on-street parking on Cascade will no longer be allowed after the project starts.
UW-River Falls plans to reconfigure lot Q -- along what is now Third street -- to create additional parking spaces equal to the number being lost on the street.
While the project does not result in a net loss of parking spaces, it does replace free on-street parking with paid spaces in a lot.
Public meetings from 2007 until as recently as 2010 gathered input, sent out information and shaped the choices made for final design.
Wronski says the existing 54-foot-wide road will “go on a diet” and become 36 feet wide.
The two 18-foot lanes will have a boulevard between with trees and landscaping, roundabout intersections at Second and Sixth streets, improved pedestrian crossing, a bicycle lane and several university monument signs.
The engineer acknowledges that people won’t like seeing trees felled and says, “We cannot do this project without affecting trees.”
He says the plan calls for planting four times as many new trees as the number that will be taken for the project.
Wronski said four years ago the city and university collaborated to do an in-depth tree study.
Arborists rated each specimen from 1-5. Only trees with a low score will be cut down.
Wronski said the average person might see a “healthy” tree, whereas an arborist can tell by looking when it is hollow, diseased or dying.
Wronski said the city and university will be making available a project website for people who want more information.
The total cost of the project comes in at about $5.6 million dollars, with the city, UWRF and “benefitted properties” each paying a share. River Falls’ part is about $3.2 million, much of which comes from a deal worked with the state DOT late last year to move the route for state highways 35 and 65 off of Cascade Avenue and onto Cemetery Road.
The DOT essentially paid the city $2 million for the past several years of wear-and-tear on Cascade as a state road.
UWRF will pay $2.3 million, which includes assessments plus its university-exclusive parts of the project.
The City Council approved at its Dec. 13 meeting the action needed to levy a special assessment of “benefitted property” in the project area. Wronski explains that the well-established concept asks owners whose property will benefit from the Cascade project to pay a share of the improvements.
A combined total of eight residents will pay an amount ranging from $2,000-$6,000, depending upon how much of their property is affected.
Others paying the assessment include a few businesses and tax-exempt entities; non-university assessment amounts total about $94,000.
UWRF owns about half the properties on the ‘special assessment’ list
Residents pay for new curbs and gutter work; tax-exempt and other entities pay also for sidewalk and in some cases, utility improvements. Wronski said the owners can opt to pay the assessment all at once or make payments over 10 years’ time at about 2% interest.
And yes, there will be a second phase of “Cascade Reconstruction” someday -- from Oak Knoll to Wasson Lane. Work on that phase remains several years in the future.
Wronski warns that most of the aesthetic improvements and finishing touches of phase one, like landscaping, native grasses, flowers, monument signs, and possibly pedestrian safety flashers -- won’t be in place until early in 2013.
The engineer says some people may look at the completed roadway and think, “That’s it?”
He advises, “Be patient until the next spring.”