Many steps taken for project to be started soon

By Jeff Smith

The transition block that is to be eliminated through a new sidewalk. Going forward it will like the hump that is in the mid-block won’t even exist.

The sidewalks on the west side of Main Street are cracked and worn down. Some parts of them have chipped and there are some sloping areas.

The sidewalk renovation has been a topic of discussion for about four years. Sidewalks have been a huge issue that the city has had to deal with for a long time.

The sidewalks were first formed at a high elevation for convenience. Trucks could easily back up and deliver stuff using a dolly.

Now, that system is not really needed and the transition block of the sidewalks are more of a nuisance.

The plan that has been developed over several years will make it better for the people to walk on that sidewalk. The plan is to have a new ADA-compliant sidewalk from Granite Sports to Hubcap Diner.  The main goal is to create consistency in the sidewalk, have two access points and a mid-block crossing. A railing is also going to be added to the upper sidewalk. It will be placed on the edge of the upper sidewalk.

The city is to pay 18 percent for the project and the state will pay 82 percent. The city will contribute $75,000 to the construction of the project.

The current sidewalks have safety issues, a lack of functionality and there are elevation changes throughout the stretch of sidewalk.

“You have a hump in the mid-block. You just can’t make one flat sidewalk that is going to hit everybody’s door,” Brett McMacken said.

The plan will eliminate the middle step and widen out the upper sidewalk.

McMacken said there are a lot of trips and falls that happen every year. Some claims have been filed against the city for minor injuries, some have been more complicated.

The project has been a big one. McMacken said that he, the city engineer and others are just as anxious as everyone else to get the project done.

The problem would be is if it is delayed any more,  then it could get deferred to next year.

In August of 2014, the South Dakota Department of Transportation signed an agreement with Hill City for the “Streetscape” project.

A sidewalk committee was formed in the fall of 2014 to come up with a design plan. The committee met for about a month and a half to create an idea of the form and function of a new sidewalk.

“We had a lot of discussion. Looked at a lot of pictures and samples of what railings looked liked and how it could aesthetically be created in the real world,” McMacken said.

It was decided that having just one sidewalk wouldn’t work.

A mid-block crossing is the major design element that was created. The sidewalk will be widened out by Bumpin’ Buffalo and then on the east side next to Mangy Moose Saloon.

The two bump outs add extra space to the sidewalk and then as someone goes forward they will be able to go up a ramp to the shops.

“It makes it more pedestrian-friendly,” McMacken said.

Two to three parking spaces will be removed with the current bump out that is planned.

Street lights that are in the middle of the sidewalk are going to be moved in line with the railing so that wheelchairs can easily move alongside the sidewalk.

The original design was submitted to the DOT in December of 2014.

“The expectation was that there would be enough time to review it for three or four months there into 2015 and then the construction would commence that fall,” McMacken said.

The problem that arose is that so much detail is needed for anything to be accepted by the state. McMacken said when the state reviews the plan there are 26 engineers that go through them. They look at everything from design elements to misspellings.

The original set of plans was 40 pages long and the plans they have now are around 160 pages. Whatever comment the city receives back from the state they have to either tell why they did it that way or correct a problem.

The city was able to create the design but the city provides most of the funding for the project. The DOT needs to make sure the plans fit their standards.

There was once two sets of steps in the sidewalk to get from the bottom sidewalk to the top sidewalk. The DOT said that if there were a set of stairs there they also need to have a ramp. The problem is that there would need to be more sidewalk added by the Dairy Queen area, creating a bump out.

Another bump out would make it so that more parking spaces are being taken away too. The city appealed that decision and it went to the state engineer and then to the DOT in Washington, D.C. This was in April of 2015.

McMacken had to call Senator John Thune in order to get the plan out of D.C.

The city engineer received the first round of comments back from the SDDOT in February of 2016.

These were submitted in October of 2016.

Once again they are making revisions to the plan. McMacken said they are in the home stretch of getting the plan back to the DOT for final approval.

Later this spring the DOT is planning to do the bid letting which means the plan has been finalized and it goes out to bid.

McMacken said they are looking at October to start construction. There are going to be different phases to the construction but the plan is to wrap everything up by the following April.

No construction will happen during the tourism season. The plan is to create as little disruption as possible for businesses.

Some have called for more pressure on the DOT to get work done that is needed.

At the April 23 city council meeting there was a request made for a DOT representative to come to a public meeting in order to discuss a timeline and what the future plan is.

The request is still on the table but the mayor and alderman seem to be alright with the information they have. It still might happen later but might not be needed.

Patty Houska, owner of Hill City Cafe, said customers have fallen on the sidewalks and hurt themselves. That area on Main St. in front of the cafe has some uneven space.

“It’s very unsafe,” Houska said.

She said she hopes the work will happen during the off-season.

Michelle Olson, owner of Bumpin’ Buffalo Bar and Grill, is concerned about the issue with the cost.

Another concern she had is with the storefronts and how they will be impacted.

Olson said there have been a lot of people that have wanted to give input but they don’t show up to meetings.

“We need to have more discussion and have more people participate,” Olson said.

Olson wants to know if the plan is a simple one or if the construction will open a whole new can of worms. She also doesn’t want to see the city doing the work.

The DOT will manage the project during construction. McMacken said city involvement will be limited once construction begins.

The utilities that will be affected by the construction are the antiques style lights. Service lines to the buildings won’t be affected by it.

The challenge with the project has been to massage the sidewalk in with the street and buildings. Their elevation is already set but there just needs to be sidewalk that needs to change.

The city also has to approve a work order so that there can be a historical study performed on the Harley-Davidson shop.

The sidewalk in front of a lot of the buildings are going to demolished. The state needs to make sure that they won’t be impacting the building at all.

“Somebody will study it and see if there are complications with it for us to do the work,” McMacken said.

Before the city signs the work order McMacken wants to understand the financial obligation of the city.

It is expected to cost around $3,000. The historical study will only take about two weeks.

More public meetings will be held before construction begins. There hasn’t been too much communication about the project in recent years because the city has had to firm up the design plans. McMacken said once the final designs have been made there will be more outreach.

McMacken hasn’t talked about it much because he didn’t want to give the public false and outdated information.