Stellar progress: Fourth Street construction to begin in February

Sourced from Dubois County Free Press

Work on the major renovation of Huntingburg’s historic and iconic Fourth Street is set to begin in February.

The timeline for the Huntingburg Fourth Street Heritage Trail project construction was among the items discussed during recent meetings with business and property owners.

Plans call for a complete renovation of Fourth Street from Geiger to Jackson street to create an attractive plaza in the commercial heart of the city as part of the Stellar Communities designation.

The two blocks being renovated will have brick pavers of varying colors delineating areas with flexible uses. The street and sidewalk will be curbless with a separation created by the presence of heavy-duty bollards that can be moved to expand the sidewalk area for special events. The flexibility offered by the removable bollards will allow storefronts to expand the shops onto the sidewalk for special events like sidewalk sales or outdoor concerts with dining.

Maintaining the shaded treelined boulevard was an important step in the process. Designer Scott Siefker with Taylor Siefker Williams Design Group explained that in light of the issues with the current trees caused by the fruit dropping on cars and sidewalks as well as the need to not block views of the architecture on the street, they were recommending a thornless honey locust. The locust has airy foliage that won’t block the views and isn’t fruit bearing.

Siefker explained that trees were a necessary component of a healthy streetscape as in the hotter times of the year, pedestrians will be more apt to still visit the area with its inviting shaded spaces.

To expand the sidewalk usage, the trees and flowers will be pushed out into the parking areas creating islands separating blocks of three parking spaces. Those parking blocks can be used as extended patio areas for the adjacent businesses for those special events.

At intersections to the two blocks of Fourth Street being improved, receptacles will be built into the crosswalks to allow for bollards and gates to be used to block off Fourth Street for events like the annual car shows, concerts and block parties that already occur there. Rather than orange traffic cones being used, attractive gates with the Huntingburg logo are being manufactured.

Coverings and other aesthetic pieces will prominently feature the new Fourth Street logo. Branding that will be featured in future public relations campaigns for events and attractions in the area.

Aesthetics aside, the plan is also designed to alleviate drainage issues and flooding regularly experienced by the property owners. With the removal of curbs, the storm sewer drainage has been moved to the center of the street. It is designed to draw water away from the historic buildings along the street and is expected to alleviate some flooding concerns. According to Nick Jahn with V.S. Engineering, the drain should be able to keep up in the case of a 50-year rain event, however, a 100-year event will see about two inches of water standing in the middle of the road in a puddle up to eight feet wide. He added that the drainage would be overwhelmed in the case of a 1000-year event like the one the city experienced earlier this year.

Additionally, since the area will be more pedestrian-focused, the design of the streets will create an illusion that the drive lanes are narrower and should cause drivers to slow down.

Jahn outlined the construction process and timeline for attending business and property owners during Monday’s meeting. Finalized plans will be released as part of the bid package by December or January with bids being accepted and awarded in February. Work will begin shortly after that and be completed in three phases.

The first phase will occur between February and May. Work during this phase will be on the east block from U.S. 231/Main Street to Jackson Street. The second phase will occur between June and August on the west block from U.S. 231/Main Street to Geiger Street. The final phase is the U.S. 231 intersection and will occur between September and October. This was scheduled later to accommodate INDOT’s plans for U.S. 231 to see if the construction can be incorporated into their project plans.

According to Jahn, the construction should be completed in time for the 2018 Christmas Stroll.

According to the construction requirements, vehicle access will be limited to scheduled deliveries during the construction phases. Pedestrians will have full access to businesses though and a marketing campaign is being built to inform visitors of nearby parking areas.

Restaurant owners attending the meeting Monday night were concerned about truck deliveries along the street during construction as well as in the future.

Once the construction is completed, Jahn told them that large semi-tractors would have a very difficult time navigating the street for deliveries. Jahn and Mayor Denny Spinner said that the communities that they visited with similar issues said vendors accommodated the new requirements for deliveries.

Overall, the merchants and property owners were very supportive of the project outside of the expected disturbance in their businesses over the construction period.