Construction work on King William Street will be stretched out for another year, and the start to the downtown streetscape will also be delayed by a year.
Steve Hernen, Director of Operations and Protective Services for the municipality and Mark Misko, Director of Engineering and Transportation for the District of Muskoka delivered the news at Huntsville Council’s July 22 meeting.
Work on King William Street will continue this fall and the contractor will return next spring to complete the project, said Hernen.
“While that was going on, working with the District we’ve been out looking for the consulting engineering company to do the design work for Main Street, and of the four companies we’ve narrowed it down to, which we’re still in the interview process on, all four have identified our schedule as a problem,” said Hernen. “Too tight of timelines, and they’re concerned that if we keep pushing for a Main Street start next spring, we’ll run into the same problem, [it’s] going to become a two-year project.”
Hernen said pushing improvements to the Main Street to 2021 will also give staff additional time to pursue funding opportunities related to climate change and storm sewers as well as accessibility, while also providing better timelines for the engineering companies bidding on the project.
“Now if we agree to move it back one year, we’re not going to take the foot off the gas. We’re still hoping to have a consulting engineer in place by September 1 at the latest… if we continue to want to try to push this through to next year, [it]means that we have to have the drawings and the engineering and the planning all done by January of this year to try and get to tender, we’re just not going to make those dates. We’re going to end up in another King William [scenario], which started construction in the middle of summertime and it’ll carry through to the next year,” said Hernen.
“This timeline allows a bit more consultation and a bit more design time, which we feel would significantly reduce any risks…” added Misko.
Huntsville Mayor Scott Aitchison said from a personal perspective he’s fine with pushing the Main Street work back another year but regretted having to extend the King William project.
I think I’m fine with the notion of the Main Street section being pushed back an extra year. I think that that certainly buys the downtown merchants a little extra time to prepare for what’s going to be a mess and destruction… but it is a little frustrating that King William Street is now going to be stretched out over two years, which means our downtown main artery is going to be a disaster for three years, not two years.Huntsville Mayor Scott Aitchison
Aitchison asked why it had been stretched out for another year and asked what is being done to complete the project as quickly as possible.
Misko said the project got a late start and the volume is significant. “We didn’t want to work all the way into winter. We’d like to push the season as late as we can but there is recognition that we don’t want to work in frosted up conditions, we want to wait until frost is out of the ground before we finish it,” he said. “So [I] agree it does create a bit more of an inconvenience for that longer timeline.”
Aitchison pushed on the delay to the King William project. “So was the tender issued late?” he questioned.
“The tendering and the award met the timelines. We did push them as quickly as we could. The project was initiated essentially late last summer and into the fall, and by the time we got through the design stages… we crunched it as much as we could to get to break ground and that’s when Steve said we don’t want to let up on the gas on this one [Main Street]. There’s a recognition that this has significantly more moving pieces with the streetscaping and everything like that,” said Misko.
Prompted by a question from Councillor Jonathan Wiebe, Misko confirmed that the plan is to have the King William project completed before the summer season next year, and work on the Main Street would not begin until the following summer, so there will be a bit of downtime, he said.
Councillor Dan Armour asked if the left-turning lane could be extended at the street lights between King William and Chaffey streets. “Today when they had the pylons out, there’s only room for two vehicles there and there’s a lot of cars turning and backing traffic up quite a ways.”
Hernen said other options are being looked at with the contractor to keep the traffic flowing through that area.
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