Implementation Plan nearing Phase 1 construction

A long road of planning is in the rearview and the city is at the doorstep of decision time for the Downtown Implementation Plan.

Consulting firm Bolton and Menk and city staff have conducted community surveys, held discussions on the plan and researched seemingly every facet of work that could and should be done.

The first, and possibly biggest decision to date, will be where exactly to start on such a large revitalization project. The Marshalltown City Council is in the midst of discussing budgeting and bonding for future projects which include fixing streets, the South Center Street viaduct and downtown buildings. How the first downtown project will fit into plans has not been set in stone yet.

During the June 28 council meeting, the council approved a resolution accepting the Downtown Implementation Plan. Bolton and Menk architect Casey Byers laid out a proposed schedule of phases to divide downtown revitalization projects into logical pieces.

The first of these phases is the reconstruction of State Street. This would include infrastructure improvements like sewers and water mains, streetscaping and creating bike lanes for two-way bike traffic.

The bike lane portion of the project would take bike traffic off of Main Street and move it north one block to State Street. This is in conjunction with possible parking changes on Main Street to preserve the overall safety for bicyclists traversing downtown. There has been conversation about changing some of Main Street’s parking to angled parking, rather than parallel parking, but no firm decisions have been made on this front.

“We think that bike lanes and angled parking don’t really go well together,” Byers said. “Two-way bicycle traffic on State Street creates a nice east and west connection in downtown.”

The estimated cost of Phase 1A work on State Street is $6.37 million at a cost of more than $1 million per block. This includes pedestrian alley work estimated at $49,060.

Though the implementation plan has been accepted as a whole, details to how it will be fully realized are still in discussion. These discussions will continue during regular council meetings, which are open to the public.

“They haven’t decided on all of the details,” said Michelle Spohnheimer, housing and community development director. “We’re still in the very preliminary stages. We’re starting to work through what that first project might look like.”

During the July 12 council meeting, the council received a report on the condition of the whole of Marshalltown’s streets. In this report, Marshalltown has more than 40 percent of its streets in ‘Poor’ or ‘Very poor’ condition. City Engineer Jay Koch said in order for the city to start gaining ground on its deteriorating streets it would need to increase its budget for street repairs, which is about $3 million now. The projected budget mark which would start to gain ground would be between $6-8 million.

During the same meeting, the council approved relaxing its self-imposed borrowing limit of 60-percent of its debt capacity. The new limit it decided on was 75 percent. This does not mean the city will immediately borrow 75 percent of its debt capacity, but it gives the city more wiggle room to borrow for big projects.

The need for overall street reconstruction and increased room for borrowing can play into how and when Downtown Implementation Plan projects get done.

“These are decisions the council will be making in the next month to really figure out what is that priority,” Spohnheimer said. “Taking funding for streets is going to mean other funds for other projects are not going to happen. If you’re only willing to go up so much in bonding capacity, that means you’re going to have to choose those projects.”


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