Improvements on Wilson Street in downtown Batavia, likely to be a hassle this summer, will pay dividends in the long run.
There will be better water and sewer service, interconnected traffic signals, and a prettier streetscape.
"This is, from start to finish, a community-driven idea," Mayor Jeff Schielke said, describing how residents have said in annual surveys that improving the downtown should be a top priority. "They wanted downtown to be a unique and friendly place."
Overall, the $4.4 million project extends from just west of Batavia Avenue to just east of Route 25. Preparation work starts Monday; construction, begins May 6.
The city will begin by replacing water mains and sewer pipes from Route 31 to Water Street. Larger water mains will be put in, and larger service lines extended to buildings. The larger mains and service lines will enable new or retrofitted buildings to have fire-suppression sprinklers.
Workers will have to cut in to the street pavement. To minimize traffic disruption, the work will be done from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m.
The other big item is interconnecting traffic signals from Batavia Avenue to Route 25. The system will sense when traffic is heavy and coordinate the signals, so that traffic can move through more quickly on Wilson.
"This is not just a beautification project," said Phil Kazmier, construction manager for Wills Burke Kelsey Associates, the firm handling the work.
Other projects include repaving sidewalks; building bumpouts to "calm" traffic; putting in decorative streetlights, similar to the ones on the bridge; planting trees; redoing the war memorial at Batavia and Wilson; removing the staircase on the northeast corner of that intersection and replacing it with a fully-accessible ramp; installing fully-accessible curb cuts at all intersections; putting in new, more visible crosswalks; repaving; and adding "pocket parks" on widened corners at Batavia Avenue, Water Street, Island Avenue and River Street.
Some of the work is intended to make the downtown friendlier to pedestrians and bicyclists. The little parks, which will have benches, are intended to encourage people to hang out and talk to one another.
"People still want to go to their downtowns because they are social animals and still want to congregate together," said City Administrator Bill McGrath. But today's visitors may be less focused on shopping downtown and more on visiting restaurants or entertainment venues.
"The theory has been we want to draw people downtown, and we want them to stay for a while," he said of the city's streetscape project, which began last year with the reconstruction of North River Street.
In the next few years, the city anticipates turning its attention to Houston Street, a portion of Main Street, and Water Street.
Dealing with it
Basquin said that access to businesses will be maintained at all times. There may be intermittent lane closures, especially during the utility work.
City officials want residents and businesspeople to stay in the loop on how construction is going.
There will be a community meeting at 7 p.m. April 30 to discuss the project.
Then there will be weekly "Coffee With the Contractor" meetings at 8 a.m. Thursdays at Panera Bread, 154 W. Wilson.
Project manager Noel Basquin, who is the city engineer, also will be checking the streetscape hotline, (630) 454-2777, and email box, firstname.lastname@example.org, for questions and complaints. Updates and photographs will also be posted on the project's Facebook page. Joi Cuartero, executive director of Batavia MainStreet, will serve as a liaison to businesses.
He and the mayor also asked for people's patience, noting unexpected problems could arise, much as they did on North River Street last year with work replacing pipes and sewers that in some cases were more than a century old. "It could potentially happen, it is an old town," Basquin said.