Improvement projects: Some behind

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 30, 1999

Muddy saturated ground might make great mud pies, but it isn’t the best mix for street projects.

Monday, August 30, 1999

Muddy saturated ground might make great mud pies, but it isn’t the best mix for street projects. Combine wet weather with other delays and the result is a later-than-anticipated finish on at least one project.

Email newsletter signup

That project – near Ellis Middle School on 4th Ave. SE from 15th St. to State Highway 218 South – will probably finish at least three weeks later than its predicted Aug. 23 finish date. Aside from weather, which probably put the project two weeks behind, the other primary factor in the project’s delay had to do with delays in water main construction.

"A lot of things came together at the wrong time," said Larry Krones, director of gas and water distribution at Austin Utilities. "Weather, location of things, soil conditions – plus we contracted this job."

It was the largest job Austin Utilities had ever contracted another company to do, and, like most first-time events, it was a "learning experience", acting general manager Jerry McCarthy said.

"Yes, the contractor (Municipal Contracting Services of Faribault) did have some problems," McCarthy said. "Once the project’s finished and all the calculations are done, we’ll be able to evaluate how cost effective contracting on larger projects like this actually is."

The good news – access to Ellis will be open through the 16th St. exit by the first day of school. Buses will still be able to drop off and pick up, and both the circle drive and the regular parking lot on the west side of the building will be accessible; the tennis courts will not be accessible.

In addition, the street is getting the stronger, better look. Assistant city engineer Dan Fick said the new concrete paving will be 8 inches deep with connected curbing. And, while concrete will be better able to stand the heavy traffic on 4th Ave. SE, it also takes longer to put in than asphalt and longer to cure.

"People will just have to plan ahead – road construction is a fact of life," principal Jeanne McDermott said. "If you’re coming from the west, go past Buffy like you always do. If you’re coming from the east side of Austin, take the Oakland Ave. exit."

McDermott said the engineers told her construction should – weather permitting – be complete by mid-September.

Also running behind is the 1st Drive NW project, where paving is also being done by Doyle Conner Company of Rochester. Originally predicted to be complete by Sept. 13, 1st Drive won’t be too far behind that date. Fick said Doyle Connor Co. will do the pavement on 1st Drive NW as soon as work on 4th Ave. SE is complete. All the underground work on 1st Drive is complete, the antique street lights and sidewalk improvements remain to be done.

Open to traffic, but with one layer left to go are 3rd Ave. SW from 12th St. SW to 15th St. SW and 19th St. SW from Oakland Ave. from 8th Ave. SW.

"Both those projects are pretty much on schedule," Fick said. "Overall, people have been real patient and understanding. And for the delays that the people on 4th Ave. have been experiencing, they’ve been very understanding."

Assessment hearings on the projects will be held later this fall, after all the costs of each project are compiled by the engineering department. Affected residents will be notified by the city of the hearing dates.