Work will close blocks of West Superior Street in coming weeks
A temporary fix is in the works for a five-block segment of Duluth's Superior Street. Over the next few weeks, the city will attack the project one block at a time, moving down a beat-up section of Superior Street from Lake Avenue to Fifth Avenue...
A temporary fix is in the works for a five-block segment of Duluth's Superior Street.
Over the next few weeks, the city will attack the project one block at a time, moving down a beat-up section of Superior Street from Lake Avenue to Fifth Avenue West. In the interim, traffic will be detoured onto First Street and Michigan Street.
Barring any unanticipated discoveries or significant weather delays, Kelly Fleissner, the city's manager of maintenance operations, expects to wrap up work by June 14.
City workers will dig up the bricks that now pave Superior Street's traffic lanes and will replace them with asphalt. With few exceptions, all brickwork in the existing parking lanes, sidewalks and intersections will be left intact.
Meanwhile, Mayor Don Ness said the city will work with residents, business owners and others who use downtown Duluth to lay plans this summer for a more ambitious project that will involve replacing not only the street's paving but many of the pipes and other infrastructure that run below it. Some of that infrastructure is more than a century old and has been subject to mounting failures and expensive repairs.
Ness said the city will tackle the larger job on Superior Street in 2015 or 2016, noting that it would not make sense to rebrick a section of the road at a significant cost only to tear it up a short while later.
Reflecting back on the 1980s when most of the current brickwork in downtown Duluth was installed, Ness contends the investment sent a useful and powerful message.
"When you consider where Duluth was at the time: It was considered one of the most distressed cities in the nation, and these bricks became an iconic feature that was critically important to revitalizing our downtown," he said. But Ness said the original bricks are nearing the end of their useful life.
The current project targets some of the most heaved and uneven sections of Superior Street, said David Montgomery, Duluth's chief administrative officer.
He described the repairs that are now underway as a short-term fix in advance of Grandma's Marathon.
"The condition of the road is such that it is not a good surface for vehicle traffic or marathoners," Montgomery said.
The cost of the temporary fix will be relatively modest, Montgomery said. He said most of the labor will be provided by city staff, and the project will require only about $50,000 worth of asphalt.
Fleissner estimated concrete repairs of the road bed in places could add as much as $10,000 to the bill.
The cost of totally rebuilding Superior Street in a year or two will be many times larger. Ness would not hazard an estimate Wednesday, saying that the expense will be determined in large part by what the community wants the road to look like and what materials it chooses to use.
The city also will need to devise a plan for how to pay for the project, quite possibly without the help of about $6 million in annual payments it used to receive from the Fond-du-Luth Casino.
A series of public meetings will be scheduled this summer to discuss the future face of Superior Street.
"This will be a once-in-every-30 or 40-years opportunity to reinvent Superior Street and our downtown," Montgomery said.
Kristi Stokes, president of the Greater Downtown Council, acknowledged the current project will cause brief disruptions, but she predicted: "This temporary fix will lead us to something bigger and better."
"The downtown is the heart of our community, and we want to make sure it continues to be strong," she said.