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Coronavirus pandemic fails to slow progress on Complete Streets, comprehensive plan


No delay planned for phase two of project

Mike Easterling   | Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — While the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted most other activities, Farmington officials say the spread of the illness has not impacted progress on the Complete Streets downtown renovation project and that it remains on schedule.

Phase one of the project, which includes a stretch from Hill Street to Allen Avenue, began Jan. 6 and is due to be finished by June 10. According to the weekly project summary posted on the city's website on March 26, the first phase remains on schedule for completion by that date.

The work so far has consisted primarily of the removal of trees and the demolition of the existing streetscape, followed by the upgrade of infrastructure such as water and electrical lines, and the construction of new storm drains. The infrastructure work is technically separate from the Complete Streets project and is budgeted at $2.5 million, while the renovation project itself comes at a price tag of $9.2 million.

City spokeswoman Georgette Allen said infrastructure construction is considered essential business and is therefore exempt from the governor's public health emergency order, which led to the shutdown of nonessential businesses and activities.

The most recent weekly project summary states that 100 percent of old services have been switched to new supply lines, and that 40 percent of electrical and irrigation conduit has been installed. Workers also have removed old water lines and completed the storm drainage installation on North Orchard Avenue. They have cut and capped the old water line on that street.

The week ahead calls for continued electrical and irrigation conduit installation, the placement of manholes, the removal of fire hydrants from the old system and a gas line relocation.

Surface improvements coming

Those monitoring the work won't begin to see surface improvements until well into April. According to the project schedule, the construction of new sidewalks will begin on April 14, and the construction of new planters will begin April 23, which is the same target date for the installation of new pavers.

Asphalt paving of streets is not due to begin until May 7, but the installation of lights and other highly visible amenities is slated to begin on April 16.

Phase two of the project, which will stretch from Allen Avenue to Auburn Avenue, is scheduled to begin June 16 and be completed by Nov. 2.

When asked if the city was contemplating a delay in beginning that phase because of the economic disruption caused by the pandemic, Allen said the city has not discussed that possibility.

"All options remain on the table for any project as we navigate the coronavirus crisis and its future implications," she said in a statement. "The Complete Streets Project was funded and bid as one project with construction implementation in two immediate concurrent phases. Consideration of delay on phase two has not been contemplated and (is) likely not financially prudent."

More: Complaints from business owners surface as Complete Streets work progresses

The Complete Streets project is designed to calm traffic on Main Street through downtown and make it more pedestrian friendly. It calls for reducing traffic from four lanes to two through the project corridor, while four roundabouts will be added, as will 6-foot-wide lanes for parallel parking. Sidewalks will be widened to 15 feet, at least 70 new trees will be planted, landscaping and irrigation systems will be added, and an outdoor speaker system and free public Wi-Fi will be installed.

Comprehensive plan committees still meeting

Meanwhile, work also continues on the city's new comprehensive plan. Allen said. The city is in phase three of that project, which focuses on strategies and plan development. The new comprehensive plan is designed to guide Farmington's progress for the next 20 years.

Allen said progress on the plan remains on schedule despite the shutdown, with technical advisory and steering committees meeting virtually. The technical committee consists of city staff members and department heads, while the steering committee is made up of approximately 60 citizens who were invited to participate in the process by City Council members.

The city is conducting an online survey of residents that remains open through the end of March on its 2040 Comprehensive Plan page on its website. A summary of the work that has been done during the first two phases of the plan is scheduled to be posted on that page by the end of the month.

City officials have planned the next public input session on the plan for May 23-24 during the annual Riverfest celebration, and the draft comprehensive plan is due to be unveiled Sept. 5 during the Totah Festival. Public hearings on the plan and its adoption by the City Council are scheduled to be complete by November.

The city also is updating the strategic plan for the Farmington Museum system, a process that began with a public meeting in December to solicit input. Allen said the first phase of that plan is almost complete, and a strategic planning workshop will follow to explore key findings.

But it could be a while before that workshop takes place.

"This workshop will be postponed until the governor's public health order has been lifted," Allen said.

More: Desire for more diverse, edgy programming expressed at museum meeting

The city has contracted with Lord Cultural Resources — a global consulting practice that offers specialized planning services in the museum, cultural and heritage sector — to facilitate the development of the plan. The original schedule called for the firm to submit a report on the new strategic plan to the City Council in May, but the inability to hold the planned strategic planning workshop could delay that date.

The city also initiated a process to update the Farmington Public Library's strategic plan in May 2019, but progress on that plan has been stalled for several months as the city began work on its comprehensive plan update.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription: http://bit.ly/216TU0e