Changes for BE’s Main Street
Next summer’s Main Street reconstruction project in Blue Earth could include some so-called ‘streetscape’ designs when the final plans are drawn up.
The city of Blue Earth’s Street Committee voted at their meeting last Monday night to make several recommendations to the full City Council to add some new design elements to the plan.
Among the items the committee discussed and then voted on include the style of street lights, having bump-outs at the corners of the intersections, using colored and stamped concrete for crosswalks and portions of sidewalks and adding places for some ‘green’ (plant vegetation) areas in the project.
Of course, the recommendations will still need approval from the council, the county engineer and the state which has to OK the final design as well.
“With the sidewalks at just nine feet wide I feel we need to create more space somewhere in the project area for these decorative items,” committee member Gary Armon stated. “This is our chance to make downtown Blue Earth more attractive. I look at this as an economic development investment, for the future of downtown.”
The committee learned that there is a significant cost increase to the project for the stamped and colored concrete, but no increase due to adding bump-outs.
“The colored concrete is an expensive addition,” city engineer Wes Brown told the committee. “But the cost for the bump-outs may even be less than paving that area as a street.”
Brown presented some preliminary plans that showed what the downtown three blocks of the project would look like with bump-outs and colored concrete for crosswalks and certain sidewalk areas.
Some drawbacks to the plan, beside the cost, is snow removal, maintenance and semi-trucks being able to make turns around the bump-outs.
However, committee members expressed ideas to overcome these issues. One was that trucks could travel an extra block before making a right-hand turn, thus avoiding the bump-outs altogether.
City public works supervisor Jamison Holland was at the meeting and expressed that having bump-outs would require extra work and expense for snow removal and might mean hiring an additional employee to accomplish it.
“This is a once in a generation opportunity to make improvements to the town,” Street Committee chairman Ray Wigern said. “I would hope the city would make an investment in the downtown.”
The committee took some time to also look at the style of street lights for the downtown area.
Tim Stoner, manager at Blue Earth Light & Water, had three styles of lights for the committee to consider.
“With the nine-foot wide sidewalks we are trying to get the smallest base we can,” Stoner said. “These have 16-inch bases and would work. They will also be the new LED bulbs.”
The committee members liked all three styles. One was similar to the lights installed on Highway 169 and the roundabouts. Another was in the style of old gas lights, two per pole.
The third was also an old style, with a glass globe on top. The committee voted to recommend that style, but with two globes on the top of each pole.
Engineer Brown and Stoner said the plan was to have seven street lights per block, three on one side and four on the other, and then the same on the next block but on opposite sides of the street.
“As long as we are going to replace the two blocks of the construction area with new street lights, our plan is to replace even more of them,” Stoner explained. “We plan on doing the two blocks to the south (of the project area) on Main Street and one block to the north with the same lights.”
Eventually even more street lights downtown will be replaced using the newer poles and LED bulbs, Stoner said.
The committee was pleased to learn that Blue Earth Light & Water was going to pick up the total cost of the new lights, no matter what style was chosen.
“We figure we are going to do this only once, so we might as well do it right and get what you want,” Stoner said.