city council

According tocity council members, they decided to set the construction date in early May to coincide with graduations. 

The city of Harrisonburg is preparing to begin construction on infrastructure improvements to downtown Harrisonburg. Two major projects are set to start in early May: one to improve pedestrian routes on Main Street and the other to replace water and sewer lines on East Market Street.

City staff members Tom Hartman, Aaron Rhoney and Jamie Fultz presented the plans to Harrisonburg residents and business owners Friday morning. The meeting consisted of a visual presentation of areas where construction will occur, an explanation of the reasoning behind these changes and time estimates for the projects.

“This is actually two projects in one summer, which is a good thing for downtown, but it’s a busy summer for downtown,” Tom Hartman, director of public works said.

The first project, Streetscape Phase III, is a continuation of previous streetscape improvement efforts. On Main Street--from Elizabeth Street to Wolf Street--the city will pave sidewalks in brick, update traffic signals and upgrade pedestrian signals to include vocals to direct pedestrians when to cross the street. The city received funding from the Virginia Department of Transportation for this project and the city is responsible for only 20% of the project’s funds.

The city plans on starting this project to coincide with JMU graduation and expects the project to be done by the end of the year, with an original prediction of November 30. The possibility of delay of the Streetscape project comes from delays with pedestrian signal materials mentioned in the plan.

“Now we’re 20-something to 30 weeks out on our signal [program] — that’s kind of ridiculous,” Aaron Rhoney, Engineering Manager said. “But we don’t have that exact date yet, but that may push a lot of your work actually further in the season, just so you guys are aware. You might see them out there for a while.”

The flow of traffic on Main Street will be maintained during this project, as there will always be one lane open at any given time. There will be some pedestrian disruption as the city implements the brick-paved sidewalks.

The second project will replace water and sewer lines on East Market Street from Main Street to Mason Street. Additionally, fire hydrants will be replaced. The water line, constructed in the 1890s, is shallow and limits possible improvement to city roads. A shallow water line limits asphalt in main roads downtown which is a safety concern of the city.

“That’s problematic for us to have [nice] pavement structure for a very high volume roadway,” Hartman said.

According to Fultz, a utilities engineer for the project, there are valves that are only inches below the surface. He said the pipe needs to be replaced because the shallow placement causes it to deteriorate faster. This project aims to eliminate safety concerns for the city.

“There’s a greater risk to busting those joints every time we pave it just from the vibration of machinery,” Rhoney said. “So we’re trying to eliminate that forever, basically.”

Residents can expect minimal water service interruption, but according to Fultz, they will be notified in advance of disruptions. This project is expected to require 2-3 months of road-heavy construction.

“What we don’t want to happen is to finish all this work, and three months later, a customer calls and says, ‘hey, my sewer lateral is not working,’” Fultz said. “We have to go out and inspect it ourselves and make sure it’s [great] before we leave it.”

The city will work to carry out these projects while also working with residents and local business owners. Both projects raised concerns about disruptions to business and living.

The city will mark detours for closed roads, and mail service won’t be disrupted to residents on roads affected. Trash services are being kept in mind and worked out. Pedestrians will have access to these roads during construction stages as well.

The city project managers said there won’t be disruption of business to downtown establishments. Pedestrians will have access to businesses via temporary ramps in order to maintain a pedestrian pathway. The city will work with business owners so the construction won’t limit their business during busy times.

“Our goal is to minimize the destruction so that we make sure that everything is accessible,” Rhoney said.

Contact Megan Petersen at peter5me@dukes.jmu.edu. For more coverage of JMU and Harrisonburg news, follow the news desk on Twitter @BreezeNewsJMU.