The downtown construction in Stage One (Photo: Martin Halek)
Huntsville’s Diggin’ Downtown construction project will remain in its second stage until further notice.
“The reality is, right now we are between four and six weeks behind schedule,” said Director of Operations and Protective Services Steve Hernen, addressing the July virtual Council. “Originally this stage of the project, from Brunel to West Street, was supposed to be completed last week. Obviously it’s not completed, there’s still a lot of work to be done in that area.”
The biggest factor in the delay is the recent heavy rainfall of 352 millimetres since the start of June, according to Hernen.
“The systems that they’re working on are all live, so the storm sewer systems when we get those heavy downpours for an hour or two, it takes a day or so for it to drain through the system,” said Hernen. “They’re literally shutting down and then having to reset pipes to get things going again.”
Hernen said crews are continuing to run into problems with the old foundations of buildings along Main Street, with crews sometimes needing to work around an extra four feet of concrete. Other factors, Hernen said, include a shortage of skilled tradespeople, as well as difficulties in procuring construction material.
To make up for lost time, Hernen said project leads have considered combining stages two and three of the project, which would result in Main being closed from Brunel to Lorne. He said this would allow crews to lay the groundwork ahead of each other and avoid time bottlenecks such as the three week delay faced previously. Hernen also said stage four of the project might need to be delayed to early spring of next year if winter weather does not allow for construction.
Another possibility is adding an overnight construction shift running Monday to Thursday for two weeks, starting August 9th. Councillor Tim Withey raised issues about nighttime noise for residents near the project, suggesting consultation with affected households.
According to Hernen, there are not too many options.
“We don’t have the power to extend the work week Monday to Friday and create more days,” said Hernen. “We have to create more time, and the only time we have available to us is the night shift.”
Both Councillor Brian Thompson and Huntsville Mayor Karin Terziano agreed the night shift would be necessary. Terziano also suggested mitigating the backup beeping of the construction vehicles to help with noise, as well as informing residents via flyer. Councillor Jonathan Wiebe suggested that the Town should pay for outside accommodations for affected residents.
By the end of the summer to fall construction season, Hernen said construction would be completed on River Street, King Street, Kent Park, and the Town Hall ramp, as well as Main Street from the River Swing Bridge to at least Centre Street. Hernen also said the scaffolding under the River Swing Bridge will be removed by the weekend, possibly as early as Thursday, allowing boat traffic to return to normal.