Archive for Thursday, April 14, 2005

Lexington Avenue sidewalk project to include tunnel

April 14, 2005

Its exact location is still in question, but a pedestrian tunnel should be in place under the railroad east of Lexington Avenue before the end of the year.

The tunnel is part of a project that will construct a sidewalk from Lexington Avenue's north Commerce Drive intersection to near the east Y. That section of sidewalk was omitted from last year's Lexington Avenue upgrade because of cost.

It was agreed in June 2004 to use the $100,000 the city is to receive in Community Development Block Grants in 2005 for the project. It will require a $52,000 city match.

City engineer Mike Brungardt presented the Council last Thursday with a conceptual plan of the project, with a request to retain HNTB Corp. to do the project design. The $33,000 cost for the design is higher than usual percentage rates for engineering services because of the need to address railroad specifications, he said.

Although its exact location is still unknown, the need to avoid drainage problems and get proper clearance means the tunnel won't be placed immediately next to the street's shoulder, Brungardt said.

When the tunnel was first discussed, it was thought it might have to be installed with a boring process to avoid interruptions to the railroad spur's two customers, Rehrig-Pacific and Huhtamaki. But Brungardt said his review indicated that technique was too expensive.

Brungardt said he learned from officials with the two industries that any disruption of service lasting more than a week would create a financial hardship, but that they could work with the four-day interruption needed to install a pre-cast box through an excavation process.

"We'll get a better and bigger tunnel with a box," the city engineer said.

The conceptual plan showed the sidewalk veering from the street south of Commerce Drive to the tunnel and then staying east of the street's slope until making a turn to a crosswalk south of the east Y.

His task is now to talk with school officials and other interested parties about the route of the sidewalk and placement of the Lexington Avenue crosswalk, Brungardt said. The crosswalk would have to be manned, he said.

Two Council members gave Brungardt two points to consider. Tim Maniez asked that the sidewalk hug Lexington Avenue as much as possible so as not to interfere with the development of the future parkground, and Emil Urbanek suggested a crosswalk north of the west Y would see considerably less vehicle traffic.

HNTB was also awarded a $17,000 contract to provide the design for the realignment of the east Y. That project, which the Council authorized last month, is estimated to cost $125,000, although costs could rise if the conceptual design is significantly changed.

Brungardt said he and HNTB engineers would start with conservations with the two residents of the block-long length of the street east of Kaw Drive.

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