Under construction

By Observer Upload April 05, 2013 11:01 am


Alder Street on the west side of La Grande is currently undergoing an entire reconstruction, which should be completed within the next two weeks. Chris Baxter/The Observer
Alder Street on the west side of La Grande is currently undergoing an entire reconstruction, which should be completed within the next two weeks. Chris Baxter/The Observer

City planning for busy summer construction season with 21 different projects scheduled 

by Kelly Black/For The Observer

The City of La Grande is gearing up for a busy construction season with $1.8 million worth of work set to be done on city streets and storm water drainage systems.

“This is one of the biggest years we have ever done,” said Ray Crapo, La Grande street superintendent. 

Street resurfacing projects totalling more than $1.2 million are scheduled to begin as early as April 15 and will run throughout the summer. 

“For street surface rehabilitation, it is a huge year,” said Norman Paullus, City of
La Grande public works director.

With a tentative start date of April 15, crews will begin making the downtown alley approaches from Fourth Street to Greenwood Street Americans with Disabilities Act friendly. The contractor, Rodgers Asphalt Paving Co., will be installing catch basins that should limit the flow of water across the sidewalks and reduce icing that occurs during the wintertime. 

“We are building it to have textured concrete in areas so it matches what you saw in the Big H project,” said Paullus.

The alley approach project, estimated at $410,000, will be funded by Urban Renewal Funds and a Bicycle & Pedestrian Grant from the State of Oregon.

A majority of the street projects are resurfacing with asphalt overlays funded through grants and the Street User Fee program, where residents pay $8 monthly on their water bill. 

“Every water meter pays a street user fee,” Paullus said. “We use that as a match to get other outside funds so we can expand our dollars.”

Of the $400,000 in revenue garnered annually from the Street User Fee, only half of the fund can be spent on major streets with the remainder of the fund designated for work on residential and other minor street repairs.

City crews are currently finishing up a project on Alder Street and will later work on G Avenue, which requires total reconstruction. The street will be ripped up and rebuilt. These projects are also funded by Street User Fees.

The Street User Fee fund will also pay for resurfacing projects on Cherry Street and O Avenue.

Many of the resurfacing projects will be completed by contractors. The city is working through the final terms of various grants and hopes to put the projects out for bid soon. Paullus anticipates the majority of the work will be done in July and August, although the actual schedule will be determined by the contractors who are awarded the bid.

Crews will resurface N Avenue and M Avenue from Fourth Street to Alder Street. The project, estimated to cost $210,000, is funded by a U.S. Department of Transportation grant from the System Transportation Program matched with about 20 percent funding from the Street User Fee fund. 

The city qualified for a federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality grant, which is designed to promote improved air quality. As a dust prevention measure, various La Grande streets that are currently gravel, or at gravel quality, will be paved with asphalt.

“There is a formula you have to go through for every one of them to show how many tons of dust you can remove by resurfacing with a dust-free surface,” Paullus said. 

The CMAQ grant was a bit unexpected. The city found out about the award a couple weeks ago and has up to two years to use the funding. The city plans to do about $350,000 worth of work this summer.

This fall, city crews will install approximately 1,800 feet of 48-inch diameter storm sewer pipe on 20th Street from Gekeler Slough to 16th Street to reduce flooding impacts that typically occur in the spring. This project is estimated to cost $600,000 and is funded by multi-year savings from the Storm Utility Fee. This fee is a monthly $4 fee residents pay on their water bill.

Streets funded by Street User Fees are selected for repair by the Parking, Traffic, Safety and Street Maintenance Advisory Committee, which is made up of local citizens. City crews make a list that evaluates and rates the streets according to deterioration. The citizen advisory committee reviews and prioritizes the list. Citizens can apply for a position on the committee, which are appointed by the La Grande City Council.

Paullus and Crapo ask that citizens be patient during the busy construction season.

“Watch out for the crews,” Paullus said. “They are putting their lives at risk when they are out in traffic.”