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Construction takes many shapes around town

River Falls has been moving forward with plans to build a new power plant substation building for quite some time. The City Council was asked Tuesday, to consider a bid for construction the building. Submitted map1 / 2
This image shows what the new substation building might look like once it's completed. It will be constructed very near to the old power plant location. Submitted image2 / 2

From city streets to the municipal power plant, River Falls residents have seen a lot of construction lately.

Many projects are just wrapping up, getting started, in the works, or ongoing in River Falls about now, including chip sealing on local streets, construction on two new sections of the Kinni Trail System, work on the city's new municipal electric substation, and plans for updates to Glen Park.

Chip sealing

The city is chip sealing about 146,000 square yards of pavement this year, according to City Engineer Reid Wronski. Wronski said that work was planned to take two days, over Monday and Tuesday, Aug. 7 and 8, depending on whether.

Chip sealing helps extend the life of roads, according to independent analysis done by UW-Madison, Wronski said.

It's estimated that by chip sealing roads that are still in good shape, an additional six to 10 years can be added to the life of the road. Without chip sealing, Wronski said, road maintenance would cost about 33 percent more than it does now.

"Instead of $450,000 per year going into maintenance, we'd need $600,000 if we skipped this option," Wronski said. "Because the roads wouldn't last as long and we'd be seeing overlay more rapidly."

Though chip sealing is valuable, Wronski said it does create a nuisance.

"I don't like getting rocks stuck in my car either," he said.

But, he said it is worth the bother.

Highway 35/County Road M jughandle

There is an existing "jug handle" type ramp connecting Highway 35 and County Road M (Division Street) near River Falls Area Hospital.

A project is planned to create another "jughandle" ramp on the other side of the road.

"That eliminates all left turning vehicles making a left turn in front of an oncoming vehicle," Wronski said.

The city is working with the Department of Transportation, at the DOT's suggestion, to implement plans for that second ramp.

"We've pursued some federal grant money to help make that happen," Wronski said.

However that plan is way down the road. Construction would not happen before 2020 or 2021, he said.

Kinni Trail system

Additions to the pedestrian trail system on the Kinnickinnic River have been planned for this summer. Work has started on a section that will run from Family Fresh Market to Walnut Street.

Preparations are being made to begin on a section of trail from Heritage Park to Division Street.

Construction on the Family Fresh stretch could be done as early as mid-September. Both trails should be done by mid-October.

Wronski said the new portions of the trail system likely won't be open for Bacon Bash. The city also arranged construction so as to avoid it interfering with River Falls Days or Bacon Bash.

"These events and celebrations are wonderful and we certainly don't want to get in the way of them," Wronski said, "but we have to work around them."

That means it may take a little longer to finish.

Glen Park

The city held an open house at Glen Park on June 14 to go over some preliminary design concepts for park improvements. City employees are trying to come up with a preliminary design that reflects the master plan for the city parks, adopted by the City Council in 2015. The City Council decided to focus on Glen Park renovation as part of its 2017-2021 Capital Improvement Plan.

Wronski said the goal is to keep people in the loop, match the city's priorities with residents' priorities for the park, and stay on track.

According to a city news release, a presentation and input session is set for 6:30-8 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 16, in the City Hall Training room. The city's consulting firm, ISG, will give a presentation on concept plans and costs.

"This presentation will provide more detailed information on concept plans as well as proposed phasing and cost estimates. We need the public's input to hear what elements of the park are most important to them, as the current budget will not be enough to cover all park renovations. This is where we need to work as a community to make the difficult decisions that come with these projects," said Wronski. "I encourage community members who use the park now, or will in the future, and want to share their feedback about project plans to join us on Aug. 16 at City Hall."

The Aug. 16 event will incorporate feedback from the June 14 open house.

"We'd sure like to see a lot of people there," Wronski said. "If you love Glen Park and care about what it's going to look like in 10 years, we'd love to have you there."

Electric substation

The city's power plant was decommissioned in 2012. A study was conducted, and a potential future location determined for the existing substation and related equipment. The city decided to relocate the substation to a new, nearby location, and repurpose the old power plant building.

Upgrades to the substation were broken into two phases. Phase one was implemented in 2016, and included the purchase of a transformer and switchgear for the substation.

Phase two will include completing the switchgear building, fencing, extensive cabling, circuit completion and installation of new switches.

This will include construction of the building that will house the switchgear, as well as concrete and wrought iron fencing around the power plant.

The city council was set to vote on bids for the switchgear building at the Tuesday, Aug. 8, regular meeting.

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

(651) 301-7849