Data, public prefer realignment

These post construction renderings show how the new bridge will affect the downtown riverbank. The single post design and placement will allow for additional parking spaces. Courtesy DOTD

Slightly skewed Church Street Bridge will improve intersection at St. Claire and Williams

By Juanice Gray,

A new Church Street Bridge is one step closer to becoming a reality. DOTD hosted the third of three mandatory public meetings Tuesday, Dec. 10. The preferred alternative, which includes a skewed bridge to align with the intersection of St. Claire, thereby eliminating the existing dog leg at the light and a temporary bridge from Touline to Washington Street were on display for public comment.

Constructing the temporary bridge is expected to take seven months and an additional 11 months would be needed to build the new Church Street Bridge. Exact time will depend on how the project is ultimately designed and length of time in the contract.  Touline would be converted to one way, from Front to Second Street. This was the least impactful option because there are no homes involved and it will miss the sewer lift station on the Williams Avenue side as well as the Santa House.

According to Erin Buchanan, DOTD public information officer, the disturbance of any trees during construction would be kept to a minimum and those trees would be replaced as part of the project.  She said the new design of the permanent bridge would also reduce the construction footprint, be more visually appealing and would allow additional parking spaces on the riverbank. She stated the design and options were all based on public feedback and data collected.

The model (see below) shows the temporary bridge extending across the end of the access road at the ingress point to the Riverbank. Buchanan said the aesthetic of the permanent bridge will align with the current bridge and wrought iron riverbank decor.  Project engineers entertained the proposal to stage construction on the Williams Avenue side.

The City could make the request and have staging area detailed in the contract with the construction company. The project is in Stage two of six. Completion of Stage 1, the planning and environmental study, was initiated in 1998. Buchanan said the study is slated for completion in spring 2020. The project is on the letting schedule at this time for Fiscal Year 2021-22, though letting dates can and often do fluctuate. DOTD does not have the option of doing this work in house. This project would have to be bid out due to the cost.

“The Environmental process for complex projects of a certain scope are tedious, but it’s for a particular purpose,” she said. “A thorough environmental review is required so the project that is ultimately built is the best fit for the community. That’s why public feedback is reviewed carefully and all taken into serious consideration.”

In addition, since the initialization of the project, Rue Beauport was designated as a recreation area which took the project to another level of assessment. Concerns over festivals and events during construction remain a concern. At the second public meeting it was discussed at length. The consensus was events would be confined to the north end of the riverbank, which includes the main stage.

Costs of the project, estimated at $8-10 million, were discussed at the first meeting in December 2018.