Several business owners and residents attended an open house for the upcoming Benjamin Avenue improvement project on Monday.
The open house at the municipal council chamber allowed participants to ask questions about the road project. One of the main concerns of the group seemed to be the turn lanes.
A business owner pointed out that a left turn is closer to an intersection.
“Why are you approaching a left turn from an intersection? ” He asked.
Another participant asked about accommodating semi-trailer trucks during construction. He pointed out that some turns would be difficult to make with traffic cones.
Colin Karst, the project manager for BX Civil and Construction, responded that the construction company would adjust traffic cones to make turning easier for truckers.
A guest asked about the impact of construction on Norfolk Middle School, located off Benjamin Avenue. Construction of this section of the road is expected to take place primarily during the summer, but could overlap until the start of the 2022-23 school year.
Vehicles will be able to use the south lane to turn right into the school, Karst replied.
The guest from Norfolk Middle School was concerned about the option of left turn lanes during construction. Karst replied that the lane for turning left into the school would be open for the remainder of the school year.
“I understand it’s a very busy area during pickup and drop-off, so we want to be out of the way as well,” Karst said.
Some attendees asked questions that BX Civil and Construction could not immediately answer.
One person asked if it was possible to get rid of a driveway completely next to Benjamin Avenue and Grant Avenue. According to the guest, the entrance is too close to Highway 81 and poses a risk to motorists.
“I consider it a traffic hazard, people go straight down the hill and then turn there,” he said.
Another attendee from Northeast Community College asked if a turn signal would be added to the First Street red light.
“I have received the last five years of accident reports. And as far as his question, most major crashes are First Street, 13th and Benjamin,” a guest added.
Many of the open house attendees were landlords or business owners of buildings near Benjamin Avenue. Karst mentioned to a few business owners that BX Civil and Construction would meet with them separately to accommodate them.
“We’re not just going to throw cones there one day and lock your access. We will continue to communicate with you throughout this project,” Karst said.
According to Karst, BX Civil and Construction and the city plan to hold weekly or bi-weekly meetings with the public once the project begins. The first 20 minutes will be devoted to comments or questions from the public.
Public meetings will likely take place at the library, Karst said.
The Benjamin Avenue project is expected to begin in April and last until later this year. But the project is weather-dependent and could last until 2023. BX Civil and Construction has 613 days under its contract with the city to complete the project, Karst said.
According to Karst, the project is divided into two phases. The first phase will start in April and will last until mid-July. Construction will begin on Riverside Boulevard and head toward 1st Street.
Phase two is scheduled to last from Thursday July 21 to Saturday September 10 and will focus primarily on the central lane and the northern half of the route.