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Modernizing the neighborhood

Curb and gutter additions planned for North Front Street

NORTH LIBERTY– This spring, old town becomes new again.
In an ambitious construction year bringing expansion throughout North Liberty, some much-needed attention will be given to the town’s original neighborhood. Starting this month, North Front Street will undergo a total renovation between Cherry Street and Zeller Street.Currently, North Front Street is an asphalt roadway with open ditches and an old sanitary sewer. The project will replace Front Street with a 29-foot-wide concrete curb-and-gutter road; replace Chestnut and Walnut streets where they connect to Front Street; install new 5-foot-wide sidewalks along both sides of Front Street, including ADA compliant curb ramps at intersections; replace the existing clay sanitary sewer and water main; replace sanitary and water services through the right-of-way; and add a storm sewer system. Upon completion, the roadway will look similar to Front Street south of Zeller Street. On the surface, this provides a wider roadway, wider sidewalks and removal of drainage ditches. New concrete driveway approaches will also be installed between the new sidewalk and roadway.
“We’ll have storm pipe underground, and it’ll do a really nice job of cleaning up the design of the road,” noted City Administrator Ryan Heiar.
This marks the first local project funded by the state’s 10¢ increase to the gas tax, which the city council plans to invest in the aging streets of North Liberty.
“At that time, our city council committed to taking those new revenues and putting it towards street improvements in the original part of North Liberty,” recalled Heiar. “We’re saving that money and this will be our first project using the new revenues,” he said, adding that, unlike most major street construction, the renovations of Front Street won’t require the city to borrow any money.
The city says the process will be somewhat turbulent for residents, but necessary for modernization.
“That will have a relatively big impact on the property owners right there,” Heiar noted. “Anytime you’re in a residential neighborhood like that, it gets a little bit more complicated, but we try to get out ahead of that through meetings with the neighborhood.”
The city made an effort to limit the impact to properties. Some trees in the city right-of-way will need to be removed but efforts have been made to save as many trees as possible. Fences and driveways behind the existing sidewalk should experience little to no impact from construction.
A temporary, 7-foot-wide easement will be implemented to complete sidewalks and water and sanitary service replacement. Regular construction noise will be limited to daytime hours; however, the cutting of concrete may be required at off hours. Short periods of outages will also occur, and excavation on residential property will be necessary during replacement of water and sanitary services.
Work will most likely begin at Zeller Street and work its way north. Front Street, between Cherry and Zeller, will be closed to through traffic for duration and construction will be broken up into three phases on a block-by-block basis. A sub-phase, around the police and fire stations, will allow them access.
Access to homes and garages will be maintained during construction by phasing and temporary gravel access drives along the existing sidewalk. Short durations of driveway closures will be necessary for some utility installations and the reconstruction of the driveway approach.
“Once a contractor’s on board, we really identify and explain to them our expectations that, while we have a job to get done and it’s a big job, we still are in a neighborhood and we expect our residents to be treated respectfully and making their lives as less difficult as possible,” Heiar insisted. “It’s going to be difficult regardless, but we want to at least minimize that as best we can.”
With a contractor selected, the city will host a meeting to introduce residents to the on-site construction superintendent and inspection staff.
Construction will begin within the next few weeks and is expected to last for most of construction season into October or November. However, the city points out, given the age of Front Street, road and utility excavation may turn up a few surprises, such as abandoned or unknown utility lines. Discoveries such as these take time to address and could prolong completion of the new roadway.

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