Artist’s rendering of expected appearance of part of Rocky Mountain House’s Main Street project.

Ground being broken for Rocky downtown facelift

Rocky Mountain House’s Main Street has gone under the blade — well, the shovel.

Rocky Mountain House’s Main Street has gone under the blade — well, the shovel.

Construction for the street’s major, three-phase facelift began on Friday with crews wrapping up the milling (salvaging old asphalt) by Monday and plowing ahead with the concrete removal and servicing installation at the 50th Avenue and 50th Street intersection.

The work is part of a $10.18-million project to completely overhaul and revitalize the main drag’s infrastructure, including new sidewalks, new sanitary, water and storm lines and a more attractive streetscape overall with trees, lamp posts and a variety of planters.

It is an intensive endeavour that is much needed, said Mayor Fred Nash.

“The pipe that was designed to last 45 years is now 63 years old,” he said referring to the sewage drainage along Main Street.

“You’ve got to do it, otherwise you’ll be spending money on cleanup.”

While the project is expected to take three years, Nash said it’s important to remember construction will only happen over about six months each year and affect only two blocks at a time.

This year’s work will see the area from 48th Avenue to 50th Avenue ripped up along Main, also called 50th Street.

Next year, the backhoes and jack hammers will target 50th Avenue to 52nd Avenue. The third summer will mark the project’s finale with landscaping and street furniture installation, such as benches and tree grates.

The upgraded Main Street should also be wheelchair accessible by the end of construction, Nash said, depending on the participation on businesses.

While access to the street during construction has been a concern as traffic is largely restricted and downtown parking non-existent, there will be boardwalks up for pedestrian traffic, which should be 99 per cent uncompromised, according to Nash.

“The difference is now you may have to walk a block or two to get to the stores instead of parking right in front,” he said.

The town is also in discussion with private landowners to see if they can set up a designated temporary parking lot closer to the downtown to compensate for the lack of parking.

“We’ve got a very experienced general contractor and the merchants are working with us and landowners. The town is helping out, the Chamber of Commerce is helping out. We’re all in it together,” Nash said.

Pidherneys, the company awarded the construction tender, will do its best to cause as little inconvenience to the public and business owners as possible, said Charles MacDonald, Pidherney’s civil operations manager.

“It’s a pretty involved, complicated infrastructure project because we still have to keep access open for all the businesses,” MacDonald said. “It involves the total replacement or upgrade of the existing underground utilities and that includes water, sewer, storm, electrical. … And the removal of all the existing concrete sidewalks and then the replacement of the existing services to each of the buildings.”

He said realistically, the first block will be “pretty messed up” for at least the next two months and unplanned factors, like bad weather, can throw a wrench into the construction schedule.

Everything was on track on Tuesday and MacDonald said he expects construction to go until Sept. 15 this year.

The town’s popular Marketplace on Main event that runs for 10 weeks every Thursday evening throughout the summer will not be affected by construction; it will simply take place further up on Main. The downtown festival, boasting an auto show, live music and numerous vendors, brought out thousands to Rocky last year. It kicks off on June 26.

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