The Northfield City Council met with Rice County representatives to discuss a possible reconstruction project for Woodley Street during its Tuesday work session.
The council has planned to work on Woodley Street for some time, slating the street for repaving in 2017. In fall 2013, the city received $760,000 in federal funds for concrete overlay with the condition that the project finish by 2017. However, even at previous work sessions, councilors brought up concerns that the crumbling street wouldn’t last that long.
As city staff researched the situation further, City Engineer Joe Stapf came to the conclusion that there were “real issues” that would need full street reconstruction, including old sewer lines and water mains.
“We kind of shifted on that project as we faced the reality of our deteriorating utility lines,” Stapf said.
He said that because of the new overhaul necessary for the street, the project’s budget will probably skyrocket from the original $1 million to closer to $3.6 million. The proposed project would include complete reconstruction of storm water lines and rebuilding curbs and gutter systems.
The plan is to work with Rice County on the project. Typically on these kinds of projects, the county funds 55 percent and the city funds 45 percent, though there is no set agreement and each project requires negotiation.
Stapf said one aspect that could cause concern is whether the council wants to add sidewalks to Woodley Street. Right now, Woodley is part of Northfield’s Safe Routes to School zone, which requires sidewalks on both sides of the street. However, building sidewalks on Woodley would most likely require the city to obtain right-of-way, a process that Stapf said could take up to two years.
“It’s time-consuming and expensive, and never goes well,” Stapf said. “I’m a firm believer in sidewalks, but sometimes we have to face the reality that it’s just not doable.”
Rice County Hwy Engineer Dennis Luebbe agreed, saying he doubted the city could finish the project by the 2017 timeline if councilors held out for sidewalks.
“That would cause me concern about being able to deliver the project in the schedule we received the federal aid for,” he said. “If we miss a federal aid deadline, I’m very concerned in coming years, they’ll be less tolerant of agencies missing deadlines, and we’ll lose that money.”
Stapf said another idea would be to only add sidewalks on one side of the street and limit on-street parking to the other side of the street. He said that not many people park along Woodley Street, so most people wouldn’t be affected.
“That might allow us to keep it within the right-of-way limits,” he said.
Stapf said whatever the council decides, it needs to decide soon so that the project can move forward in time to finish by 2017 or even 2016.
“If you decide to deliver a project in 2016, we’re behind the game already,” Luebbe said. “We don’t have much time to have protracted debates and continue to look at options.”
“If we’re going to move forward with this, we’ve got to move quickly,” agreed Mayor Dana Graham.
City staff will continue to research the issue, with councilors making a decision at a later council meeting.
Grace Webb covers the cities of Northfield and Lonsdale, and writes about public safety. You can reach her at 645-1117.