BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – A representative from the engineering firm overseeing the rehabilitation of Highway 61 through Fort Madison said if everything goes to schedule, the first phase of the project could be completed by November.
Tim Cutsforth, a project manager for HR Green, told the Fort Madison City Council at its regular meeting Tuesday, that some miscommunication and delays between the State Historical Preservation Office and the Iowa Department of Transportation have continued to push the work schedule back.
“SHIPO is a very big player in this project,” Cutsforth told the council.
“But we’re very late in the schedule at this point. If the DOT allows us back in the bid letting schedule, we’re looking at a July 16 letting date. If the work were to begin shortly after that, we would be looking at November for completion,” Cutsforth said.
The east end of the project goes through some historical Fort Madison property where the original fort used to stand and historical officials believe the project could possibly unearth historical items.
The project is funded with the money the city received from the state to take over the maintenance of the highway within the city limits. The city has broken the project down into segments, but over time those segments have changed.
The state turned over jurisdiction of the corridor to the city in exchange for $13.9 million dollars when the bypass was constructed. Plans included redoing several intersections including the 27th Street and Avenue L intersection, which was completed in 2018. Plans also included redoing the intersection at Avenue O and Ortho Road.
Original plans called for four segments starting on the west side of the city and working east. However, plans changed and the city decided to go from the east and tackle 2nd Street to 6th Street, moving progressively west. The city had originally planned to have the entire stretch rehabbed by 2027.
Cutsforth said SHIPO reps will be on hand as the old highway is pulled up and crews start to peel off the subsurface in case any historical artifacts are discovered.
He said if anything were to be found and it was nothing that required additional searching or expanded digging, costs could be kept to a minimum, but if something is found and the project is stopped to make a more comprehensive search, the cost would be on the city to bear.
Public Works Director Larry Driscoll said that cost will be around $25,000 minimally, but could exceed $100,000 if extensive digs are conducted or required.
Cutsforth said if the city can’t get into the July bid letting, the project will be pushed out until the spring and another year and will take about five months to complete.
In other action, the council:
• approved a federal aid agreement for a Transportation Alternatives Program, or TAP grant, to help finance Phase 3 of the PORT Trail project which will connect the west end of Phase 2 with Fort Madison Community Hospital. The council also approved an agreement with Southeast Iowa Regional Planning Commission for $5,000 to perform administrative work on the TAP grant.
• approved a first reading to amend the definition of “Rental Housing Unit” in city code allowing inspections of some non-occupied properties that aren’t currently being inspected as defined in city code.
• approved a first reading of an ordinance amending plumbing permit fees under Chapter 2 of the city code.