Watertown bridge projects timing still faces obstacles

by MATT BUNKE

carver county news

 

The upcoming County Road 10 bridge reconstruction project was once again the primary topic of discussion during the Watertown City Council’s meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 14.

In addition to authorizing Carver County to pursue eminent domain on properties where settlement agreements have not yet been reached, the council also heard from members of the city’s engineering firm, which informed the council that despite the city’s decision to build the bridge in stages in order to keep traffic open, there will likely still be several instances where the bridge may need to be closed for several days at a time.

The council also was told by Bolton and Menk’s Dan Lonnes that even if the County is issued a permit in time for construction this summer — the Army Corps of Engineers still has not issued one — activity at the state level could still influence whether or not the bridge is built this year.

Lonnes said the Army Corps has already indicated that city and county will be allowed to tear down the current bridge, but a permit has yet to be issued. However, perhaps even more important to the timing of the project right now is activity in the state legislature.

There currently is no state bonding money available for the project, and that funding will need to be approved during the legislature’s upcoming session. However, that session runs through May, and if the passage of bond funds doesn’t occur until late in the session, it could push back the project in Watertown until later in 2014, or potentially even until 2015.

“If it was passed late in May, we couldn’t possibly award the job,” Lonnes told the Council. “It’s something we should prepare for that it could push construction award into the summer substantially, so that a call would have be made whether or not we want to start it and leave it in a condition that would be kind of sketchy for the winter. You can only get so far in one season building it in stages. If it were to be started in July or August, we’d want to think really hard about whether 2015 would be a better fit.”

Lonnes said receiving the funding shouldn’t be a problem, but the timing is the main issue at this point.

“It’s a longshot the money won’t be there, but there’s a strong possibility it could impact the start date,” he said.

The other news regarding the bridge is that there likely will be some times during the construction process when the bridge will need to be closed. One of those instances will occur near the completion of the project, when the road is being paved and striped.

“You can do almost anything under traffic, but there are things that are going to be so bad it’s going to be backed up so far that it’s just simply not worth it,” Lonnes said during the meeting. “(Paving) is one of those things where we’re recommending we just bite the bullet and prepare everybody for a short, numerous day closure. It’s going to be a far cleaner process than trying to pave it under traffic.”

During the duration of the construction project, lanes will be narrower than normal, likely 11-foot lanes. Turning will also be difficult for trucks, so Lonnes said signs would be posted to divert truck traffic through a detour. He said smaller single-unit trucks should be able to make it through the intersection, but larger trucks with a trailer would be too large to turn.

In a separate measure, the city council also authorized the county to pursue eminent domain on two properties that will be impacted by the project, but have not yet reached settlements with the county. All the other properties involved have reached settlements with the county.

 

In other business:

• The council approved the purchase of a new Command Vehicle for the Watertown Fire Department.

The council approved the purchase of a 2014 Ford Explorer at a price not to exceed $45,000. The current bid includes a $25,357.82 base price with $1,670.18 in options for a price of $27,028. However, after adding lights, siren and radio, the bid comes to $41,584.42.

The Fire Department’s Command Vehicle and Duty Office program was launched in 2011. The program makes sure one of the department’s officers has access to vehicle at all times, 24 hours a day, and can easily be the first on the scene of emergencies. The program has helped reduce response times, getting an officer on the scene as soon as possible to assess the situation. In many instances, the department’s larger vehicles can be cancelled, saving wear and tear on the larger fleet.

The current command vehicle is a 1999 Chevy Suburban, which was purchased from the city of Chaska for $5,000 in 1999. However, it is need of a number of repairs within the next year.

• Interim city administrator Mark Kaltsas informed the city council that the city received four applications for the vacant city council seat, which was left empty by Steve Crowder’s resignation in November. The four applicants -— Lindsey Guetzkow, Chuck Charnstrom, Nicholas Hoese and Jim Sandquist — will appear before the council during the Jan. 28 meeting, at which point the council will likely make a decision and appoint one of the four to the city council.

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