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Main Street issues

By Staff | Aug 30, 2015

With the downtown Blue Earth Main Street paving and utility project scheduled for next summer, the city held a public information meeting last week to explain some of the options and to gather public input.

City engineer Wes Brown explained to the 20 citizens present that the project plans will be drawn up this fall, with bid letting set for next spring and construction work beginning approximately in May of 2016.

The affected area is Main Street from Fifth Street to Seventh Street.

“Because there is underground utility work being done, the street and sidewalks will be completely removed,” Brown explained. “From one side of the street to the other, building front to building front.”

He added that the underground utility work will go right up to the building and that will mean the permanent store front awnings will have to be removed.

“Especially the ones with steel support posts,” he said. “In order to get the construction equipment close enough to the buildings to dig, the awnings will have to be removed.”

He added that there could be several old, unused utility pipes buried in the street, including old steam lines, which could have asbestos material to be removed as well. There will be a lot of digging, he said.

“The contractor will do all he can to keep access to the stores,” Brown says. “They will have packed gravel ‘sidewalks’ in use as much as possible.”

Some of the discussion centered on finding enough parking areas during the construction. City administrator Tim Ibisch said they will utilize side street parking, especially on Sixth Street, but agreed it will probably put some stress on finding enough parking locations.

The type of parking spaces on Main Street after the project is completed was also discussed.

Brown had large aerial drawings on display of the downtown two-block area with examples of the different possible configurations. One had parallel parking on both sides, one was diagonal (angle) parking on both sides and the third was a combination of diagonal one side, parallel on the other side.

Included in the drawings were the widths of the street and parking lanes, as well as how the types of parking affects the width of the sidewalks.

“We applied for, and received a variance from the state as far as being able to do diagonal parking on both sides of the street,” Brown said. “So it is possible to do it. But because of the narrow overall width of the street, it would mean very narrow sidewalks.”

A decision on what type of parking will be used has yet to be made.

Since Main Street is a county/state aid road, the county has a major stake in this project as well, Brown said, and will furnish the major part of the funding and also will have the final say.

Faribault County engineer Mark Daly was at the public meeting and explained the project is expected to cost $1.2 million.

“We can pave a mile of a rural county road for about $90,000,” Daly said. “So spending this much on two blocks in town is a major investment for us.”

Daly explained that the downtown two blocks were not the only Main Street projects planned for next summer in Blue Earth.

“We are also planning on replacing the Main Street bridge over the Blue Earth River, by the fairgrounds,” Daly said. “And we are going to resurface Main Street from the Leland Parkway bridge north to Fairgrounds Road.”

One person asked about resurfacing the on/off ramps that lead from Main Street to Leland Parkway, and Daly agreed they were in rough shape, saying they may add that to the project, depending on the bid amounts for the other work.

Another topic at the meeting was fixing up the fronts of buildings, as well as developing rear access for use during next summer’s project.

Faribault County Development Corporation director Tim Clawson said there are several types of grants and loans available to businesses to do this type of work.

“We will be holding a grant funding workshop on Oct. 20,” Clawson said. “Contact our FCDC office here in the Ag Center for details.”

City administrator Ibisch said this was the first of several public meetings being planned concerning the project on Main Street.

“Our goal is to let people know what is going to happen, to keep everyone informed,” Ibisch said. “And, we want to gather input from the citizens.”