Frank Ellenz_color

FRANK ELLENZ

By KELLY GERLACH

News Editor

Interviewing engineers puts the city of Maquoketa one step closer to reconstructing Platt Street in 2021-22.

A committee of city, county and other experts on May 2 pared down a list of applicants vying to become the engineering consultant on the project. Next week on May 23, the committee will conduct face-to-face interviews with the three finalists before hiring one, according to Maquoketa Public Works Director Frank Ellenz.

After the consultant is hired, “that will really get the ball rolling on the street project,” Ellenz said.

The Platt Street reconstruction project began moving forward in December 2018, when Maquoketa received a $3.8 million federal BUILD (Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development) transportation grant that will, in essence, help reconstruct the 1.8-mile stretch of Highway 64 (Platt Street) from Highway 61 to Highway 62. The changes will be made to the road’s surface, underground utilities, and surrounding easements.

The entire project will cost an estimated $10 million, Ellenz said.

The Iowa Department of Transportation, which began the endeavor as a resurfacing project only, will pay about $3 million toward Platt Street reconstruction.

With other miscellaneous dollars factored in, Maquoketa’s share of the project debt will be about $2.7 million, city officials estimate.

Because of the government assistance, Maquoketa must adhere to federal and state regulations governing all aspects of the road reconstruction and engineering, Ellenz explained.

The city a couple months ago sent requests for proposals for engineers to oversee the project. Such requests are like resumes in which applicants state why they are qualified for the job, their past experience, etc. The city received six proposals and reduced them to three.

Two of the finalists hail from Cedar Rapids and the third from East Dubuque.

After the engineering consultant is hired, the detailed work begins, he said.

Project details

Preliminary project plans feature the complete reconstruction of Platt Street from Vermont Street east to Highway 62, and mill-and-fill from Vermont Street west to Highway 61.

Complete reconstruction includes:

ν New and resurfaced street pavement

ν New curbs, gutters and sidewalks to comply with handicapped-accessibility guidelines

ν New storm sewer, sanitary sewer, and water mains

ν New natural gas lines

ν Installation of a new broadband fiber-optic network

ν Traffic signal upgrades

ν New street lights

Mill-and-fill means crews will grind off 3 to 4 inches of blacktop and replace it with new asphalt.

“This is the largest construction project this city has undertaken,” Maquoketa City Manager Gerald Smith said when the city received the BUILD grant in December.

Ellenz estimated that the street surface from Vermont Street to the west is 18 years old and the pavement to the east is 26 years old. He said the east side’s water and sanitary sewer lines are “really old,” built in the 1940s or 50s. They will be enlarged to support fire protection efforts and allow better flow in the city.

After the engineering consultant is hired, that person will begin preliminary project plans for Platt Street. This includes following all NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) regulations, including the search for anything of historic significance, and acquire temporary easements from landowners abutting Platt Street. Ellenz expected that process to be completed by fall of 2020.

Construction would begin in the spring of 2021.

Tentative plans call for the entire project to be completed in two phases between 2021 and 2022, Ellenz said.

“The plan as of now is not to rip up the entire length of Platt Street all at the same time,” he explained, adding that access to homes and businesses during construction will be critical.

“Major detours will be set up before construction begins,” said the Public Works director, who helped organize efforts to alleviate similar issues during Maquoketa’s 2016 Main Street reconstruction project. 

“Is it going to be easy? No,” Ellenz said. “There are going to be times it’s going to be a challenge, but you’ll always have access. Nobody will be without access to their properties.”

A construction engineering inspector also will be hired to inspect the project. The engineering consultants are not allowed to inspect their own work, per federal regulations.

As with the 2016 street project, the city will hold weekly construction updates for affected property owners and the public, Ellenz added.

Platt Street planning committee members include Ellenz, Jackson County Engineer Clark Schloz, Clinton County Engineer Todd Kinney, Mayor Don Schwenker, David Heiar of the Jackson County Economic Alliance, and Chandra Ravada of East Central Intergovernmental Association.