By Alex Bridges
Work on the Strasburg downtown streetscape project is moving forward as crews make up for time lost this past winter.
Town Manager Judson Rex said Friday that workers for Lantz Construction picked up the pace due to the nicer weather.
"Most recently they've really been able to speed things up and move forward quite a bit," Rex said.
Workers poured concrete along the south side of West King Street for the new sidewalk. Crews also began to rip up the sidewalk on the north side of the street Friday morning, Rex said. Workers plan to go back once the sidewalks dry and install brick pavers as part of the design.
Rex said he expects Lantz to complete the first two phases of the project by the end of the summer. The contract calls for the construction crews to maintain access to all businesses along the project as best as they can. But access may be limited at times, especially when workers are pouring concrete for the sidewalk.
"I think, in general, we haven't had tons of complaints," Rex said. "I think everybody knew this was coming and has planned for it for quite some time, and we feel we have good relationships with the businesses downtown."
The Chamber of Commerce and Hometown Strasburg have helped the town by getting word out to the businesses about the project work.
"There've definitely been impacts," Rex said. "It's construction and it's a temporary difficulty but we think overall it's going to be a great improvement for downtown."
The first two phases of the project cost $1.5 million. The Virginia Department of Transportation covers 80 percent of the project cost. The town will spend about $300,000 on the project.
"It's a good deal overall for sure for the town," Rex said. "We certainly couldn't accomplish this without spending a lot more money and it's good work."
Rex noted the benefits of the streetscape improvements, including ramps for people using wheelchairs.
"The project is going to help contribute to the overall revitalization of our downtown area and it will do that in a couple of ways," Rex said. "One is to increase the accessibility and the pedestrian friendliness of the environment downtown."
The design includes safety elements such as "bump-outs" at various points along the path. Such elements are seen as a way to slow down traffic approaching pedestrian crossings. The design also includes bricks placed in various spots in the sidewalk. The town sold more than 90 commemorative pavers for the project. The town may sell pavers for future sections of the project.
The project also aims to improve downtown from an aesthetic angle. Supporters say the project should give downtown a fresh appearance and help promote businesses along the route. But Rex noted that downtown revitalization requires more than just new sidewalks. The town is taking action to help boost the downtown economy.
"Not alone is it going to change the entire business environment," Rex said. "There's a lot of factors that play into revitalizing downtown but this is a major part of it and, with the other activities that we're doing to help revitalize downtown, this will complement those and, together, will create a new environment for us to be successful in."
Contractors also will be installing a brick wall by the Handy Mart at Capon Street, made from old bricks the town removed from sidewalks years ago and kept in storage. Rex said the town plans to put a sign on the wall but that has not yet been designed.
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or firstname.lastname@example.org