The West Market Street detour will continue a bit longer than expected as part of a new plan to get the $1.7 million sidewalk project completed weeks ahead of schedule.
The section of West Market Street between Ayr Street and Morven Park Road has been completely closed to traffic since May. The road was expected to reopen to alternating one-way traffic this month, but the full closure is being extended until the end of September.
Anne Geiger, project manager with the Department of Public Works & Capital Projects, said Madigan Construction is ahead of schedule with the project, but can finish the work even more quickly if given the extra room to work.
“He told us that if he can have an additional month of a [full] road closure he can finish the project, with the exception of the stone facings on the retaining wall,” she said.
Originally, the plan was to have one-lane closures of the road continue into the fall, while the brick sidewalk and retaining walls are constructed. But the additional full closure will allow that to be completed by Sept. 30, “and we’ll try to beat that,” Geiger said.
The 1,100-foot sidewalk project between Ayr Street and Morven Park Road is intended to resolve dozens of current deficiencies in the section, including 31 barriers to accessibility based on ADA standards. These include trip hazards, missing sidewalk and stairs, according to a staff report. The project will remove stairs at the intersection of West Market and Ayr streets, and also complete a missing link of accessible sidewalk that will connect the sidewalk network west of Morven Park Road with the downtown. The concrete and brick sidewalk on the north side of West Market Street will be replaced with a new, ADA-compliant, brick sidewalk. The project began in April with the replacement of the water main within the right-of-way.
Once the road reopens next month, the sidewalk will also be open to pedestrians. Geiger said the stonemasons used by the contractor were already scheduled through November, so starting sometime that month they will come to work on the fascia of the wall. That work is expected to take a couple of weeks and will require the sidewalk to be closed to foot traffic, but West Market Street will be able to remain open to traffic.
Geiger said nearby residents, polled via email, were all in favor of extending the road closure by a month to have it open sooner. The extended road closure also is expected to reduce the project costs, Geiger said, as flaggers will not need to be hired for partial lane closures.
In some ways, the COVID-19 pandemic and its reduction in traffic has made the project less of a burden on motorists and residents.
“We’ve experienced a reduction in traffic associated with the whole pandemic, and we’re still experiencing that,” said Bud Siegel, deputy director of the Public Works & Capital Projects Department. “The intent was to have [the road] open for school; that has changed as well. You hate to say that you’re taking advantage of a pandemic, but given the reduction in traffic flow it made this decision much easier to get the project done earlier and minimize the disruption to the citizens.”