East Cascade nears end of extreme makeover; city plans ribbon cuttingOfficials from the city of River Falls, the university and the state Department of Transportation plan to gather in front of UW-River Falls’ South Hall at 11 a.m. Friday, Oct. 12 to mark the near-end of their multi-million dollar Cascade reconstruction project.
By: Debbie Griffin, River Falls Journal
Officials from the city of River Falls, the university and the state Department of Transportation plan to gather in front of UW-River Falls’ South Hall at 11 a.m. Friday, Oct. 12 to mark the near-end of their multi-million dollar Cascade reconstruction project.
In case of rain, the event moves inside South Hall.
The public is invited for what City Engineer Reid Wronski says will be a gathering to acknowledge the project goals met through a spirit of cooperation among the three major entities.
He said without such cooperation, the Cascade road project would not have happened.
And after 70 years of patching potholes and layering fresh asphalt over the old, everyone knew a change was needed.
Wronski says East Cascade won’t reopen completely for the Oct. 12 celebration, though either or both ends could see traffic flowing by then.
Wronski estimates the opening date to be from a few days to a few weeks after the ribbon cutting, but the team had to pick a date for the ribbon cutting either before or when the road opened, as well as a date when everyone could be there -- and next Friday is it.
Recent work includes installation of streetlights, trees, plantings, mulch, protective barriers at the Second Street roundabout and signage. Crews expected to add the final layer of asphalt on side streets this week.
Wronski clarified that the contractors on the project technically have until Nov. 30 to finish, even as the project managers try to expedite progress.
Obviously, said the engineer, “We want the road open as soon as it can open.”
He explained that they must wait on delivery and installation of big, limestone cap rocks that will top the bricks at both roundabouts, which he says are needed for safety.
Wronski said contractors usually get busy this time of year trying to finish things before “snow flies.”
The only substantial “uh-oh” moment for the project came recently when the electrical contractor began opening the 33 new streetlights.
The finish that should have been slick and black appeared crusty, peeling, cracked and discolored.
Wronski said the city did not skimp on the light-pole finish, striving to save time and money on frequent maintenance or repainting. He admits it was a major disappointment to realize the poles had a faulty finish.
“Anybody would look at it and call it a problem,” he said.
The engineer said River Falls rejected all 33 poles, said it would not pay for them, and asked the manufacturer Holophane to “fix it.”
He said the company agrees there’s a problem and has been responsive, but he doesn’t yet know how it will resolve the issue.
An electrical contractor must meet its obligation to install streetlights before Nov. 30, which must be in place for Cascade to open, while the manufacturer must also figure out how to right the wrong.
Wronski said one strong possibility is that crews will erect the faulty-finish poles for now but replace them all next spring.
He said he understands that the closed road has many ripple effects, but points out, “We’re not going to open Cascade if it isn’t ready and isn’t safe.”
Wronski also senses everyone’s general readiness to finish the project. He thinks most people will be pleased with the changes to a safer, smaller-sized road with improved flow; a Cascade Avenue that creates an attractive gateway to the UWRF campus; and a thoroughfare with much a better appearance and pedestrian-crossing safety.
Anyone is encouraged to join the ribbon cutting.
Weekly project updates on East Cascade Avenue can be found at the city’s website: www.rfcity.org, click on the Cascade Avenue link at the bottom of the homepage.