Merchants and business owners gathered at the Lovell Community Center Monday for a pair of meetings designed to continue the process of getting the word out about next summer’s water, sewer and street project on Main Street in Lovell.
The so-called “information sharing sessions” were well-attended, with about 35 people attending the 1 p.m. meeting and another 15 or so at the 6 p.m. session. Leading the discussion were DOWL HKM engineer Andrew Mattie, Wyoming Dept. of Transportation resident engineer Ben Steed and WyDOT Public Relations Specialist Cody Beers.
Also presenting information were District Construction Engineer Keith Compton, DOWL HKM design engineer Sarah Mainwaring and Lovell Town Councilman Brian Dickson.
Steed explained that WyDOT has been planning a project to replace certain panels of Lovell’s concrete Main Street, repair and/or replace some curb and gutter and sidewalk, restore and add expansion joints and construct ADA ramps at intersections on Main from Shoshone Ave. west. The Town of Lovell timed its final phase of the water and sewer infrastructure project to coincide with the WyDOT project.
The goal of Monday’s meetings was to not only provide information about next summer’s project to the public but also to listen to ideas that business owners or managers and Main Street residents might have.
“We want as much public input as we can,” Beers said at the 1 p.m. meeting as he noted a survey given to each attendee that he asked to be mailed back by Dec. 30. “We’ll use public comments to make this project the best that it can be. This is a fantastic turnout.”
Mattie said the project will run from Quebec Ave. west to Great Western and include replacing sewer and water lines the length of Main and major crossing lines at each intersection as well as service laterals (lines) to each business, office and residence to the right-of-way line, which he said is generally the inside edge of the sidewalk.
“We’re going to be pretty disruptive,” he said. “We want to minimize the impact, but you’re going to be glad to see us go.”
WyDOT will handle the bid letting in March, Steed said, and once the bonding and contract paperwork is completed, the project should begin in early April, he noted. The project should wrap up in October, he said.
Mattie said the project will start at Quebec and gradually move west
“We have to lay the sewer (pipe) uphill, because it flows from west to east,” he said, noting that the sewer pipe runs directly beneath the Main Street median strip, which will be torn out and not replaced. The water main runs about 10 feet to the north of the sewer main, so there will be about a 20-foot cut in the street, Mattie said.
One small section of the project on the west end of town will be done in April – a section at Great Western Avenue where there is no sewer and where an irrigation waste water ditch crosses Main. The underground irrigation pipe will be replaced along with the water main in that section. The best things about it, Mattie said, is that the work will avoid the sugar beet campaign, which would have coincided with the project as it worked its way west.
Mattie said the original mains were constructed in 1959-60, “so we will find some surprises.”
Mattie and Steed said the project will include “hard closures” of Main Street two blocks at a time, and “soft closures” for one block on either end of the hard closure, with limited access for “local traffic.” The only exception to that plan is the block from Quebec to Pennsylvania, which is wide enough to allow two-way traffic on one side of Main while work is being conducted on the other side.
Traffic entering the soft closure block will be able to make a U turn to exit the block, and customer parking will be allowed to the soft closure blocks, the officials said.
All sidewalks will be open during the project for business and residential access, except during the moments when the sidewalk is being cut and later, re-paved. Service line trenches will be covered.
Traffic will be detoured one block to the north of Main on Third Street around each hard closure, and Mattie said each hard closure will last from two to three weeks, depending on the number of service lines and/or any problems that crop up. The block-by-block work will then “leap frog” down Main, but the goal is to totally complete each block as the project moves along, finishing and paving as it proceeds rather than waiting until the end of the summer, as in prior phases of the water and sewer project.
“It’s really tough to coordinate,” Mattie said. “The engineering is not complicated. How you pull it off is complicated. WyDOT has been great to work with.”
He said it would be very helpful if business or home owners can tell DOWL HKM where their utility service lines run, especially sewer lines, noting that the “last best information” is more than 50 years old.
Mattie and Steed noted that there will be weekly construction meetings during the project and the public is welcome and encouraged to attend. Updates, including a map, will also be published in the Lovell Chronicle weekly.
“You can sit right in (the weekly meetings) and ask questions,” Beers noted. “They are all pubic, and we invite anybody and everybody to come and participate in the process.”
Businesses are encouraged to prepare rear entrance access to their stores and offices during the hard closure in front of the business, Mattie and Beers stressed, and it was noted that Lovell Inc. and the Lovell Area Chamber of Commerce will be working with businesses to facilitate the rear entrance access.
Mattie said, in response to a question from North Big Horn Senior Center Director Denise Andersen, that there will be brief times (one to two hours) when water service is shut off to a customer, such as when a new line is being hooked up, but during construction temporary water service will be provided, and when an outage is planned, 48-hour notice will be provided.
“And the shutoff will usually be done after a certain time so someone isn’t caught in the shower,” Mattie added.
Mattie stressed that anyone with special needs or times when water should not be shut off is asked to communicate that information to the town or DOWL HKM.
Andersen said her concert was getting seniors into businesses during construction, and Mattie asked her to work with him on a weekly basis to coordinate efforts.
“If you know of people with special access needs, let us know and we’ll help them,” Mattie said.
Mattie and Steed said there are no plans for a truck route around the town, although they noted that regular truckers will probably learn to avoid the project. All traffic will proceed into town, then be routed one block to the north on Third where the hard closure is in place on Main.
Some individual issues were discussed. Jim Davis asked about getting his supply trucks to Lovell Building Center and seemed satisfied that trucks will be allowed down Montana. Cheryl Knop discussed the Monday morning crunch of her delivery truck and customers trying to use the rear entrance at the same time.
Steed and Mattie noted that a special provision will be included in the construction contract to shut down during Mustang Days so that events won’t be affected. Steed noted that a similar provision was in place during Pioneer Day a few years ago in Cowley, and the parade route ran its normal course on Main using the base surface.
Asked about how long it would take for newly poured concrete to cure, Steed said most concrete reaches 80 percent strength in three or four days, and a contractor can also use “high early” concrete that will cure even faster.
Compton said WyDOT may require the use of high early concrete in the contract, and Steed noted that the entire surface of Main will be ground for smoothness at the end of the project and the joints sealed.
“It will be a lot nicer Main Street when we’re done,” Steed said.
As for emergency services, Lovell Chief of Police Nick Lewis said engineers and construction personnel have worked closely with the LPD and dispatch center during previous phases of the water and sewer project to alert agencies about which streets would be closed during a certain time period.
“The closures will be very well defined,” Beers said. “The project moves slow enough that barriers will only be changed every couple of weeks.”
Lewis also recommended that since long semi-tractor trailers will be using side street that cars be asked to park away from corners so the trucks can make a corner with their side turning radius.
“We definitely have to look at that,” Compton agreed, though Beers added, “Lovell has a better situation than some towns I’ve worked with” due to its wide streets.
Compton noted that, with the median strip gone, parking lanes on each side of the street will be widened by about a foot.
During the evening meeting several mentioned the removal of the median strip, which they consider to be a safe haven. Tom Newman said he has seen from his State Farm office many people “play Frogger” as they dodge traffic crossing the street and asked about additional crosswalks, while Hyart Theatre Manager Wendy Roth said she worries about people crossing the street on Friday and Saturday nights heading to a movie. She wondered if the police department could enforce jaywalking more stringently.
Noting the suspension of the project during Mustang Days, Roth also asked if consideration could be made for the Hyart Film Festival, which takes place the weekend before, and Audrey Bay of the Four Corners noted that several hundred motorcycles will hit her part of town in early June during the annual cancer run. Steed said the project wouldn’t likely be that far west by early June.
Beers said the biggest inconvenience during the entire project is parking.
“If people are willing to park (on a side street) and get some exercise, they can walk right in the front door of a business,” he said, noting that some communities have been able to enhance and open up their business district by developing rear-door entrances.
By David Peck