2010-10-07 / Front Page

Sidewalk saga

State delays village improvement project
By Geoff Campbell

Narragansett Avenue (top photo) on a rainy Wednesday morning. Plans for renovating the village sidewalks are in limbo until the state Department of Transportation give the project the go-ahead. The sidewalk project has been in the works for nearly two decades. Many of the village sidewalks (bottom photo) are in poor condition and need to be replaced. Photo by Jeff McDonough Narragansett Avenue (top photo) on a rainy Wednesday morning. Plans for renovating the village sidewalks are in limbo until the state Department of Transportation give the project the go-ahead. The sidewalk project has been in the works for nearly two decades. Many of the village sidewalks (bottom photo) are in poor condition and need to be replaced. Photo by Jeff McDonough The project to restore and improve the sidewalks at the commercial end of Narragansett Avenue – a project 18 years in the making – may finally be coming to fruition.

According to Town Planner Lisa Bryer, the process began in 1992 with an application by Jamestown to the R.I. Transportation Improvement Program for funding to restore and improve Narragansett Avenue’s sidewalks in the town’s commercial district, an area that is located between the fire station and Conanicus Avenue.

Town Administrator Bruce Keiser said that, in the past four years, there have been “two to three claims made against the town specifically because of uneven sidewalks.”

Photo by Geoff Campbell Photo by Geoff Campbell Narragansett Avenue is one of several state roads in Jamestown, making it eligible for Rhode Island TIP funding. The TIP process includes three major construction steps: Study and development, design, and construction, Bryer said.

In 1995, the project was listed by the state, and it was funded in 1997. Shortly thereafter, the monies were allocated – all typical steps in the funding of TIP projects, according to Bryer.

The project includes sidewalk replacement, designated crosswalks, curbing and the placement of trash receptacles.

Because of the nature of the project, street paving would also be included, Bryer said.

In 1998, shortly after the monies were allocated, Jamestown hired Gates, Leighton and Associates to design the various “project components,” she said.

Photo by Geoff Campbell Photo by Geoff Campbell During the design process, town officials met with Narragansett Electric Company and Cox Cable to discuss putting the utilities underground, where sidewalks were being replaced, Bryer said.

But following the substantial state-managed upgrades to Southwest Avenue, state officials reported that the state would not fund the placement of utilities underground and additionally, would require that any underground utility work associated with the Narragansett sidewalk project be “a single and separate” project, not in the same construction cycle, according to Bryer.

Bryer said that a year was lost in the underground utility process and since that time, progress on the overall project has been slow.

Jamestown’s Comprehensive Community Plan reported the progress on the project in 2002 this way: “The Town has used TIP to gain funding for transportation projects in Jamestown. Funding was received in 1997, with $500,000 targeted for streetscape improvements to the eastern most part of Narragansett Avenue [phase I]. The preliminary design was completed in 1999 and construction is targeted for completion in 2003.”

But, according to Michael Gray, Jamestown’s deputy public works director and town engineer, priorities change and the first focus for “limited funding is often bridges and highways,” he said. “Enhancement projects are not at the top of the list.”

Finally, last spring, the state told the town to move forward with a three-month timetable and to send the project out to bid.

Bid documents were released in May and bids were open on June 9. A low bidder has been identified, according to Gray, but the firm is not yet under contract. The process is now “stuck in contracts” at the state level, according to Bryer.

Bryer said that the state has presented the town with additional forms, which have been completed, and that the state has made some requirements that have been met.

One such requirement, she said, was the formal contracting by the low-bid construction firm of all sub-contractors, prior to the issuance of a contract to the construction firm by the town.

Bryer also said that the project was always intended to be a twoseason contract to minimize the effect on businesses.

Gray said that the first season is after Labor Day in September to December (as the weather allows) and the second season is mid-April to mid-June.

More than two weeks have passed since the anticipated project start date of Sept. 13. Bryer said that a start date later in the fall is possible, but unlikely.

Funding for the two-phase project is “1.19 million for two phases ($500,000 plus $690,000),” Bryer said. She added that for phase one, “the contractor bid is $614,847 and we have spent approximately $70,000 on engineering and design.”

“We have been diligent every step of the way in getting this done,” she added.

The sidewalks have received “band aid” repairs while the town waits for the project to get underway, according to Gray.

He added that the town is “required by state law to maintain the sidewalks.”

Calls to Associate Chief Engineer Robert Shawver, head of the planning and finance division of the R.I. Dept. of Transportation, were not returned.

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