Work is coming along well on Phases II and III of a now years-long overhaul of Main Street.
City engineer John Sprague told members of the city’s Redevelopment Commission — the entity paying for it all — that after many delays early on, the reconstruction is nearing completion.
The difference between September and now, he said, “is astounding.”
Kerns Excavating in Bicknell, the group awarded the contracts for both Phase II and III, which are happening simultaneously, has reached about 90% completion; the final surface layer, Sprague said, will likely be postponed to spring.
Concrete work is ongoing, Sprague said, and will likely keep going, weather permitting, until it’s finished.
While through traffic is not yet permitted, Sprague said he hopes to have Phase II reopen in early December.
As the last of the work continues on Phase III, however, traffic will need to be kept to a minimum simply because that section of the road is more narrow.
“I drove it all yesterday,” said RDC president Tim Smith, “and it’s really coming together.”
The commission in May awarded a $3.18 million contract for the final Phase III portion of the ongoing Main Street overhaul to Kerns.
Before that, the Indiana Department of Transportation awarded the $2.5 million contract for Phase II to the same vendor; of that, the RDC will be paying just 20% thanks to a state grant acquired years ago.
The RDC began the Main Street endeavor years ago, beginning at 22nd Street with Phase I.
Phase III ends at Richard Bauer Drive.
Improvements have included wider lanes, new lighting, sidewalks and bicycle lanes. Phase II also includes a realignment of Main Street’s intersection with Felt King Road, bringing it 90 degrees into both Felt King and Ramsey Road.
The RDC also on Thursday approved yet another agreement with the Lochmueller Group, Evansville, for improvements necessary to an earlier wetland mitigation project associated with Main Street Phase I.
More from this section
This work, for about $31,000, is for the planting of about 200 new trees as well as the replacement of some signs that have gone missing over the past two years, among other mitigation-related projects.
Sprague broke the news to RDC members in June that a stream mitigation project done as part of a deal struck with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management years ago had fallen out of compliance.
The effort began long ago as the RDC looked to Phase I, which began at 22nd Street and went to Jamestown Apartments.
A ditch line in that area was considered to be protected wetlands, so as part of the deal that allowed the city to disturb it, officials had to establish a natural wetland somewhere else.
The city partnered with the Knox County Parks and Recreation Department in planting a grove of trees at the old Econo Mine property, located just south of Bruceville off Indiana 67. In total — and in partnership with engineering firm Clark Dietz and Kerns Excavating — the RDC planted about 800 trees in an area about a half-mile long there.
Per the agreement with IDEM, the stream mitigation site required monitoring — and additional work, if necessary.
A miscommunication, Sprague said, resulted in a lack of oversight, so the site fell out of compliance with IDEM.
In June the city hired the Lochmueller Group to help get them back on track, first by conducting an inspection of the site. These improvements are the result of that inspection, Sprague explained Thursday.
Lochmueller, too, will now do annual evaluations to ensure it doesn’t fall back into a state of disrepair.
Sprague, too, expressed gratitude to members of the Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area, or CISMA.
A large reason the wetland mitigation site had fallen out of compliance was the emergence of invasive species.
Led by county resource specialist Will Drews, the CISMA group, Sprague said, has been out at the site now three times to begin ridding them, a process that will likely take 2-3 years.
“CISMA is out there on a voluntary basis — they’re out there right now — performing invasive mitigation for free,” Sprague said. “We’re only paying for the chemicals they’re using.
“So I want to give a huge thank you for them, for saving us gobs of money.”