Main Street-area businesses and residents got a preview last Thursday of what they might expect over the next two years as the city plans more infrastructure improvements for downtown Waconia.
At a virtual public information meeting on Feb. 11, city staff and engineers shared a project overview and timeline, and answered questions about the plan which is in the development stage.
“We want to engage the public early with this project to manage construction impacts in the downtown area,” Project Engineer Jake Salsbury said at the online meeting. As part of the public involvement process, project planners have formulated a business owner questionnaire to help them understand the dynamics of each business operation in terms of business hours, parking access, supply/material deliveries and other issues to help maintain business activities during construction. There is also, a comment card for questions, comments and concerns.
The project is expected to be extensive with construction tentatively scheduled to occur during the 2022 and 2023 construction seasons – generally May through the fall of each calendar year. It will include improvements to streets, utilities, sidewalks and stormwater drainage generally in a nine-block area.
The project is proposed to be constructed in two parts:
•The 2022 portion, which will reconstruct two blocks of Main Street and one block of Olive Street;
•The 2023 portion, which will reconstruct three additional blocks of Main Street and one block of Elm, Pine and Spruce streets.
Other components of the project include streetlighting, landscaping, signage and accessories like benches and trash receptacles. The project is part of a downtown master plan developed in 2014 and addresses some of the oldest remaining sections of sewer and watermain in the city, according to Public Services Director Craig Eldred.
Improvements to about 20 other blocks on the west side of the downtown have been made in recent years, along with major roadway and water management structure improvements to Waconia Parkway North in 2019.
The frequency of projects and related traffic interruptions, along with cost impacts on top of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, had at least one business owner at last Thursday’s meeting questioning the timing of the projects.
Eldred acknowledged “while there is no good time for a project like this,” he explained that the existing watermain, sanitary sewer and storm sewer is in poor condition and there are concerns about failure.
“We have to do these types of improvements,” he said. “Better and cheaper to get after it soon before an emergency.”
The city has applied for grants to fund some stormwater management portions of the project. Other portions will be assessed to business and property owners. Assessments will be calculated after the design is closer to being finalized.
Going forward, the city council will need to authorize and approve a feasibility study, conduct a public hearing, authorize bids and award the project.
A recording of the public information meeting and downtown construction updates will be available on the city website: waconia.org. On the same page, residents also can sign up to receive automated email updates.