City planning water main, street reconstruction project on southwest side

The city public works department is planning a water main replacement project on the southwest side and is proposing to couple a street reconstruction street reconstruction project with it to reduce costs.

The water main replacement project includes 2nd Avenue Southwest from 3rd Street to 6th Street; 3rd Avenue Southwest from 5th Street to 6th Street; and 5th Street Southwest from 4th Avenue Southwest to 1st Avenue Southwest.

The water main replacement project is scheduled to go to bid June 23, be awarded at the July 6 City Commission meeting and begin construction around July 19, according to a city letter to property owners in the area.

The water mains in the area were installed in the 1890s.

The department is proposing to reconstruct streets in tandem with the project, to include 2nd Avenue Southwest from 3rd Street to 6th Street; 3rd Avenue Southwest from 5th Street to 6th Street. The project would reconstruct those roads to current city standards which requires the road be wider than it currently is.

The street reconstruction would start next spring/summer, according to public works.

Reconstructing the streets would disrupt about a dozen trees in the 100-year-old range that have grown so large they’ve become physical barriers to the reconstruction of the roads, according to public works. 

southwest street reconstructionThat raised some neighborhood concerns and public works staff have been working with the area residents for the best options.

“Truly, we are worried about the trees too, they are magnificent. With that, we also need to replace water main and streets in the neighborhood in order to ensure we can continue to provide reliable essential services. To do the street reconstruction portion of the project, we believe some of those trees would need to be removed. We are trying to balance the practicality of providing services with maintaining and preserving the aesthetics and character of the neighborhood,” Paul Skubinna, public works director, told The Electric.

As part of the project planning process, the project team went to Neighborhood Council 2 and affected property owners in April to give them project information and options, and get resident feedback. Staff followed up with a late-April letter answering questions that were asked during the April 14 council meeting.

 During their May 12 meeting, Neighborhood Council 2 voted in favor of recommending to the City Commission that public works proceed with the street reconstruction project that would require the removal of about 11-12 of the existing 37 trees.

The project will include planting new trees at a rate recommended by the city forester and public works estimates that will be around three new trees that are two-inch diameter for every existing tree removed, according to Jesse Patton, interim city engineer.

Staff considered using larger trees, but using industry standards and guidance from the city Park and Recreation Department, it was determined that the survival rate for larger trees is significantly lower than for the standard two-inch tree, Patton said.

In April, residents had asked if the city could use other designs for reconstructing the road or converting the roads to one-ways in an attempt to save more trees.

Staff looked into using bulb-outs to jog the curb out and around the trees, but determined that could cause street maintenance and drainage issues and reduce on-street parking.

Staff also considered eliminating the curb in the areas of the trees, but staff theorized that those areas would collect water during rain and snow events, which could cause the road to settle if the road base becomes saturated.

Those options were considered temporary fixes by staff since the trees would continue to grow, according to public works.

Converting roads to one-ways would require a traffic study and would impact roads belonging to the Montana Department of Transportation, delay the project, add cost and likely only save a maximum of eight trees, according to public works.