The multi-phase, multi-million dollar reconstruction of Houston Street — both above and below ground — will kick off Monday with the shutdown of a busy connecting road between Church and Davis streets.
“We’re actually going to begin on phase one, which is Houston Street between Church and Davis streets,” City Manager Marc Maxell said Thursday. “However, it actually extends a little bit further in both directions, so we’re actually probably going to start a little bit west of Davis Street on utilities and work to the east.”
While not the busiest street in town, Houston Street definitely makes the top 10 list, serving as the main artery to venues such as the Hopkins County Regional Civic Center, Gerald Prim Stadium, the Southwest Dairy Center and points east.
And the short section where work starts Monday sees heavy usage — it’s the entry point to Houston Street for traffic coming through the city on State Highway 154.
“It would be wise to start planning on an alternate route if you pass through there,” Maxell said. “The time is coming when we’ll just shut it down altogether.
“If you can avoid the street for the next year or so, it might be a good idea.”
His tongue was planted in his cheek at the time Maxwell said that, but none too firmly. The truth is, sections of Houston Street will be affected at one time or another well into the year 2011 — the work is expected to take 2 1/2 years to complete.
Houston Street has been a maintenance monstrosity for years, due in no small part to a severely deteriorated water main.
When Maxwell presented the city staff’s report on capital improvement needs in August of 2007, City Council members were told Houston Street was overdue for an overhaul.
"The fact of the matter is, our recommendation is based on a sense of urgency," Maxwell told council members, pointing out that the water main had to be repaired 27 times the previous year.
All told, the upcoming project will cost an estimated $4 million. The work includes replacing and upgrading water and sewer distribution lines; improving drainage; and rebuilding the street surface with concrete. The plans also calls for adding eight-foot sidewalks on both sides of Houston Street. Pedestrian walkways are a feature of urban design that essentially disappeared after World War II, and Maxwell is convinced that trend was a mistake.
“One thing the city is lacking is sidewalks,” Maxwell said. “We have hardly any, and we need to focus on that.”
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