On the evening of Tuesday, June 4, a public meeting was held at Tasos Steakhouse for members of the community who were interested in discussing and learning more about Phase II of the Streetscape project that is being conducted on the Knoxville square. Engineers Greg Roth and John Micka were present with a map of the downtown area to show where the next construction will be done, and a pictoral chart to give attendees an idea of what some of the downtown improvements will look like.
There is a $3 million budget for Phase II of the Streetscape project. Phase II construction will include the four blocks around the Marion County Courthouse, as well as Robinson Street between First and Second Streets. The construction will include a storm outlet to improve drainage during and after the project. Underground utility work will take place as well.
The lighting around the square will also be switched over to LED lighting, which will use a lower amount of energy and still illuminate as well as the current lighting. Benefits of the new lights include rebates from MidAmerican Energy and they have three times the life of the current lighting.
The streets will be repaved with two or three shades of clay paving. The colors of the new pavement will correspond with the coloring of the Courthouse brick. Micka expressed to those in attendance that the advantage of clay paving, over brick paving, is that it will keep its color over time instead of fading from sun exposure, as colored concrete would.
Of the plans presented at the meeting, the aspect that was the most widely discussed was the narrowing of the streets on the square. The streets will be narrowed to a 60-foot width with angle parking.
Many of the Knoxville residents in attendance expressed concern with this. The main concerns were that the narrowed street width will increase downtown congestion for drivers, especially factoring in truck deliveries, and that downtown parking spaces will decrease.
Roth assured those concerned that Grinnell, whose downtown currently has the setup Knoxville is switching to, has not met many problems related to traffic congestion or parking issues. He also mentioned that the narrowed streets will make for wider sidewalks, which will make more pavement space for downtown events. The increased sidewalk width will also cut down on time pedestrians will be in the lines of traffic when crossing streets.
Roth said that with the current plan, no parking will be lost in the downtown area.
There were attendees who also expressed their support for the project. Kathy Caviness from Sundance Realty expressed enthusiasm for the improvement of the downtown sewer system, as well as the general updating and aesthetic improvements that the project will provide the downtown area. As a realtor, she said she likes the idea of improving the look of the Knoxville square, and she hopes that the downtown improvements could lead to other town improvements.
“We have to start somewhere, and if we don’t start now, we’ll never start,” Caviness said.In terms of starting phase II of the project, Roth hopes construction can begin July 29 at the earliest. The project is going out for bids by the end of the week, and a public hearing will be held on June 17 on the project plans, specs, and estimate.
On June 25, a pre-bid meeting with be held with potential bidders at City Hall in the Community Room at 2 p.m. On July 15, the project will go to council, and the contract and bond will be subject to legal and engineering review before being approved.
Roth says that discussion with contractors will decide whether or not phase II will begin this July or next spring; it is dependent on the contractors’ schedules and whether or not booking them for the summer or next spring will be more cost-efficient. As of now, Roth says it is looking to be potentially more cost-efficient for contracting this summer.
Roth says he will essentially be with the project from start to finish, and during the project, he will be in Knoxville twice weekly to speak with contractors and make sure everything for the project is on schedule. Roth also encouraged those who attended the meeting to leave their contact information on the sign-in sheet, and he plans to send out emails in the future about the project plan and the project’s progress.
He said, “I’m not saying there will be no inconveniences during the project; there will, as there will always be with construction projects. But the end product will create an improvement in the town, which is the goal.”