Third Street in Riverside has turned into a giant sandbox.
Highway 22, which runs through the city’s downtown area, has been narrowed to one lane, resulting in a line of cars and trucks with drivers patiently obeying a temporary traffic light system that has been put into place.
Construction bulldozers and MidAmerican energy trucks have been in town for weeks.
Sidewalks along Third Street are gone. And so are a number of trees.
The reason is an elaborate $3.3 million project, known simply around town as the Third Street project, which will result in new water and sewer mains, a new Third Street at a different elevation to help prevent flooding, and new sidewalks and retaining walls with a sophisticated feel.
“It was a lot to undertake,” Riverside Mayor Allen Schneider said. “We had concerns about how much work was going to be going on this summer, but we can see progress.”
Major work on the Third Street project follows up a mostly completed renovation of Railroad Park, which had a grand re-opening during Trek Fest in June. The new playground surface features a Star Trek logo.
Funding for the Third Street project includes $1.2 million in capital improvement money set aside by the city. The City Council approved a payment of nearly $200,000 to primary contractor Streb Construction of Iowa City at its meeting Monday night. The source of the other $2.1 million is still not determined. A number of financial options includes using bank-issued bonds to pay for the work.
The project is so big that Schneider and City Council members turned one of its work sessions last December into a walk-through tour of Third Street and the surrounding area with Nick Bettis, a senior civil engineer with Axiom Consultants of Iowa City.
Brian Boelk, a senior civil engineer and co-founder of Axiom, has worked closely with the city council on the Third Street project and the renovations at Railroad Park, in addition to other work around the city. Discussions about the project go back months, and Bettis gave another update at this past Monday’s City Council meeting now that construction work has moved into high gear.
“We’ve made some pretty good progress on grading,” Bettis said.
The traffic lights went into place July 13 to create space for storm sewer work alongside Highway 22. Bettis said work is progressing so quickly that the traffic lights might be gone by the end of this week.
City council members are hoping the work is completed before the 2022-23 winter season hits.
Schneider said the talk around town has been positive.
“I haven’t heard any negative comments, I guess,” he said. “There’s always a little bit of concern when you’ve got this much construction going on. I think people have been pretty good about it.”
While Third Street exists now as a closed road with dirt pushed to the side and down the road from Highway 22 on the east side of town to Washington Street on the west side, it will eventually emerge as a road lower in elevation than it is now with sidewalks built above tall retaining walls because of the hilly terrain that goes from downtown to just north of downtown.
Much of Third Street will be two feet lower than it is now with parts of it going deeper than that. The steep hills that are now seen along the street will be replaced by retaining walls going as high as 12 feet. New sidewalks will be accessed by stairs on the north side of some portions of Third Street.
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