Dusty but open: As projects reach peak, keep businesses in mind

The commanding voice called “Keep moving!” to a motorist who was rounding a corner on the Heights Monday.

It was day one of what appears to be a blessedly short period of “wrong way” detours done in the interest of keeping traffic flowing while Belmont and 12th and 13th streets are excavated for new water lines.

“This is the price of running water,” flagger Dave Williams of contractor MEI said Monday as cars streamed by in both directions.

The vocal motorist was some impatient soul who Had To Get There First, and was yelling at the car ahead even though both were traveling in a congested area and going south on a normally north-only street.

In an unusual situation, this person insisted on behaving with the usual impatience.

The flaggers deserve credit for safely and efficiently moving vehicles through the neighborhood. It’s a public safety concern, given the potential for accidents in this case of sanctioned wrong-way driving, and the fact that the city and contractor MEI have reached a linchpin in this $12 million public infrastructure project. Sometimes you have to cut holes in the busiest streets in town. The price of running water, indeed.

Two-foot diameter pipes are going into the ground at this writing; the project heads east across 12th and along Union Street in the next phase of the project.

There is always the potential for the unforeseen, any time there is digging up the road involved.

That may remain the case on the other big project in town — downtown Urban Renewal — where piles of gravel and stacks of pipe seem to be everywhere. The Crestline crew deserves credit for making way for motorist and pedestrians, though some downtown businesses have complained about significant incursion on their business in the past three months. Such as the case five years ago in the Oak Street Urban Renewal Project.

The city plans an outreach of sorts this spring once the project is done, a kind of invitation to people to come back downtown. That’s a positive idea, but we recommend it start now. True, there is less parking available because State is almost constantly closed to traffic and parking, but it is almost always open to pedestrians. The only exceptions have been when safety is at stake or temporary access was made impossible by the task at hand.

Oak and Front Street businesses, like those on State, remain open, and no level of dust and noise has changed that. There is parking available, and the downtown businesses affected by street closures deserve support. The end of the project is in sight, but there is plenty of work to do, and plenty of work going on inside the walls fronting the streets.

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