Plans also in place to have crews working on the reconstruction of 2nd-6th Streets on Old Highway 61 August through October
BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Fort Madison will have two projects going on at the same time on the former Hwy. 61 this fall.
As part of the funds received from the state of Iowa when it turned over the stretch of Old Highway 61 to the city, crews will begin working on straightening Avenue L at the “S” curve.
Public Works Director Larry Driscoll said that stretch of road was determined, along with the intersection of Avenue L and 27th Street, to be one of most dangerous in the city with the highest accident ratings.
“We did finish 27th Street a couple years ago and I thought that intersection was greatly improved. Some people disagree and that’s fine. But on the ‘S’ curve the plan was to straighten this out and we came to the city council about a year ago and talked about this,” Driscoll said.
The cost of the project will be around $550,000, similar to the cost of the Avenue L/27th Street project.
The city plans to take some of the northwest curve out of the stretch of roadway and make the road curve to the southwest and then straighten out before bending back west after 36th Street.
The money to be used comes from city funds in the Old Hwy. 61 fund. The project was originally scheduled for 2022, as rebuilding the entire highway through Fort Madison was planned with the money from the state.
At the same time, the city will begin work on the stretch of Old Hwy. 61 from 2nd Street to 6th Street. That project has been delayed for a year.
“We started that project in 2018 and had some delays through the state,” Driscoll said.
He said, answering questions from Councilman Chris Greenwald to explain the delay, the state history and archeological officials got involved and wanted to make sure dig sites were done to help protect any potential history in the ground.
“We initiated the startup for construction and designs in the spring and we just now finished all the documentation they wanted last month, so we will bid that section of road in July,” Driscoll said.
He said the city made a compromise with the state historical society to regulate how the city will proceed with digging on the highway, at an additional cost of $100,000.
“This has slowed us down to the tune of about 12 months,” Driscoll said.
Greenwald then asked how many blocks of overlay on Avenue F the city could get for $100,000 to which Driscoll replied five.
“That’s putting a price on history,” Councilman Rusty Andrews said to Greenwald with a chuckle.
“I find that comment out of line,” Greenwald replied.
The detour will use 34th Street and Avenue M for motorists to get around the construction as Driscoll said the city will completely shut down that stretch of road, after talking with business owners in the area. The shut down will take 30 days off the construction time.
The council approved a resolution ordering the construction, setting public hearing and bid letting for the project, 6-0. Councilman Chad Cangas was absent.
In a related issue, the council moved forward with having Driscoll get designs to reconstruct the lower parking lot in Riverview Park to allow access to the depot museum during high waters. The city will also redo the parking lot at Avenue F and 8th Street. The cost is at about $880,000 and will come from the reimbursement of interest paid on the waste water treatment loans.
That money was originally earmarked for the Avenue G sidewalk project. That project popped when estimates came in almost double what the city’s engineering firm had originally estimated. The funds have to be used for storm water projects. The parking lots will have permeable pavers and a base to allow storm water to be absorbed by the lots rather than run into the city’s storm sewer system.
In other action, the council:
• voted 5-1 to approve a second reading of sewer rate increases that will bump overall sewer rates on an average home using 4,000 gallons per month about 13% over the first two years. The ordinance needs a final reading before it takes effect.
• voted 6-0 to authorize Driscoll to file an application with the Iowa Department of Transportation’s State Recreational Trails program for construction of Connecting Fort Madison! Phase 4. Phase 4 would connect the path from Baxter Sports Complex to River Valley Road on the west side of 48th Street.
• voted 6-0 to spend $8,662 on eight computers for the Fort Madison Police Department’s squad room. The department will also soon be getting onboard computers for vehicles and City Manager David Varley said the state will be picking up the tab for those computers.