In a little more than two years, a significant portion of Broad Street will be redeveloped, thanks to help from a federal grant.
With approval from the Mobile City Council two weeks ago of a construction contract using almost $2 million in city money, work can begin on the nearly $17 million first phase of the complete streets project from Lawrence Street to Canal Street.
“The contractor is John G. Walton and we expect to issue him the notice to proceed sometime within the next week,” Director of Major Projects Vince Calametti said. “We anticipate for him to start work maybe the first or second week in September.”
The total amount of the contract is $16.9 million, with some $14.9 million coming from the Mobile Area Water and Sewer System (MAWSS) and a federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant. The other $1.9 million is made up of matching funds from the city. The contract is for road rehabilitation, bike lanes, sidewalks, signage and striping. The project should take more than two years to complete, Calametti said.
“It is a 450-working-day contract and that’s going to relate to a little over two years,” Calametti said. “He will start at Lawrence and proceed to the south and that’s really what we’re doing now. We’re meeting with him. We’re meeting with all the utilities. We’re meeting with everyone to get coordinated ….”
A working day constitutes any time the contractor can work four hours on the site, Calametti said. While the start of construction could mean traffic issues or delays along the route throughout the life of the project, Calametti said the city is planning an “extensive” communication campaign to help get the word out.
“Then, what I anticipate is maybe monthly, [we will] send out some type of newsletter, fact sheet or information sheet to get the public a little more advised about what’s going on,” he said.
The project will replace the current six-lane concrete street with asphalt and reduce, or as Calametti prefers, “repurpose,” two lanes to add space for cyclists, pedestrians and on-street parking.
“It’s going to be a challenging project because it is concrete,” he said. “The city prior to me getting here elected to remove the concrete. We’ll be removing all of it … in phases. We’re concentrating on business access, those types of things.”
As for allowing better access to local businesses, Calametti echoed Mayor Sandy Stimpson in admitting lessons have been learned from the Florida Street drainage project.
“There is a lessons learned type of effort that we’ve all been through,” Calametti said. “In any construction project you need to have a scope and [a] budget analysis versus inconvenience to the public. So, you’ve still got to get the work done. It’s going to be inconvenient, but hopefully not painful.”
The extra space will also be used to develop a median, which wasn’t there before. It’s unclear what will populate the median in terms of landscaping at this point.
“It’s yet to be determined,” Calametti said. “It’s a possibility that once it’s finished the city can come back and landscape it later.”
In addition to the so-called lane diet, the Alabama Department of Transportation has approved a roundabout at the intersection of Broad and Canal streets, where a signal currently sits, Calametti said.
Broad from Lawrence Street to Canal Street, which was originally two projects, is phase one.
“It was originally scoped out as four projects,” he said. “The city (bid out) this first project twice and couldn’t move forward. So, we combined one and two together and then we’ll have three and four.”
The other phases will see improvements stretch from Canal Street to the Interstate 10 on-ramp at Broad Street.
“That’s currently under a rescoping,” Calametti said.
Another phase of TIGER extends from Broad Street down Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue to Three Mile Creek.
The project was not without a bit of controversy because of a plan to cut down roughly 60 live oak trees along the route. However, members of Stimpson’s administration and tree advocates reached a compromise that allowed the project to move forward unabated.
“So, the original tree proposal that went to the [Mobile] Tree Commission, the city came back and analyzed it and made some suggestions,” Calametti said. “Then the groups got together and they made a proposal to us and said, ‘would you look at these 10 items?’ And I think we approved all or part of seven. So, we have come to a happy medium.”
The result means fewer trees will come down and additional ones would be planted, but the project will consist of fewer on-street parking spots in areas.
The compromise did not prevent a group of residents from challenging the Tree Commission decision with a hearing in front of the City Council. However, the council voted 6-1 to deny the appeal.
As for what drivers can expect from the project, the overall result should be safer travel down the one-time major corridor, Calametti said.
“You know you want to keep traffic moving as much as you can, but in a safe manner for the public as they try to utilize the bike lanes and crosswalks and stuff like that,” he said.
While the project is in progress, drivers can expect to see increased signage and reduced speed limits.
“They’ll see ‘workers ahead,’” Calametti said. “Of course, worker safety is so key to all of us. So, that’s the first things they’ll see.”
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