A 20-year street construction project in downtown Marion, in its first year, is already behind schedule.
The city’s $11 million Uptown Streetscape Plan will eventually shift through traffic in Marion from Seventh Avenue to Sixth Avenue. The project’s goal is to clear up heavy congestion and make downtown Marion more pedestrian friendly.
Marion city engineer Dan Whitlow said the project is about a month behind schedule. It’ll take several weeks now until all the brick is down on a new portion of Sixth Avenue, so it’ll be Thanksgiving by the time businesses in the are have improved access to their stores.
Lunch was being served at Huntington’s Restaurant in downtown Marion Monday, but construction is providing a headache for diners who leave via the restaurant’s back door.
“When they have the detours and everything, they have to go this way and that way, and the next time they tried it, it was completely different,” said Huntington’s owner John Huntington.
Huntington, however, said the current frustration is worth it, because of the improvements for the future.
“It will definitely bring in more parking and more businesses downtown, and more pieces of pie for everybody,” said Huntington.
The first phase of the Uptown Streetscape Plan is to rip up and rearrange the city’s downtown streets.
“The project was started with 100 working days. We have about 15 left,” Whitlow said. “Obviously it’s going to take more than that to do the project.
“Marion’s been growing about one thousand people a year,” Whitlow added. “So with that comes traffic. A lot of people work in Cedar Rapids, so they end up coming through the downtown, uptown area,” said Whitlow.
A mild winter and dry summer have provided the perfect conditions for construction, but construction workers haven’t been available.
“A lot of subcontractors for this area have been busy on other projects,” Whitlow said. “We’ve been trying to get them back here to work on our project, but they have to be spread throughout the Cedar Rapids metro area and have just gotten behind.”
With construction being about four weeks behind schedule, it’ll take some time to finish brick laying and paving. The next step in the project, involving treescaping and landscaping, won’t likely happen until spring.