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Highway 965, park on NL’s to-do list

Open house gives a glimpse of projects

NORTH LIBERTY– It’s almost detour season.
Despite stormy weather, city officials and representatives from Shive-Hattery engineering firm gathered at the North Liberty Community Library Thursday, April 24, to give the public a chance to learn details of a few projects that will impact traffic in the upcoming construction season.
Highway 965, North Liberty’s main thoroughfare, will see the continuation of a multi-phased improvement plan that was initiated in 2006. This project includes flattening the curve near the Scales Bend Road intersection and making improvements at the Dubuque Street intersection, as well as adding landscaping, a sidewalk to the west side of Highway 965 and a walking trail on the east.
During the first phase of construction, which will occur from the north side of the Penn Street intersection to the south access of Advance Millwork, traffic will be detoured east/west on Penn Street to Alexander Way, and again east/west on 240th Street. Construction is expected to begin in early May and be completed by early August.
Aaron Granquist of McClure Engineering said the stretch will be completely closed to through traffic, with access to business driveways off Penn Street.
“There will be detours in stage one and stage two as well,” Granquist said, “but the complete closure and taking it down to two stages saves about 11 to 12 weeks of construction time. While it’s not ideal, it also saves the city about $400,000.”
The second stage of this project is anticipated to begin in August, and Highway 965 will then be closed from Dubuque Street north to Pheasant Lane. Expect to detour around construction by taking 230th Street to Eight Point Trail to Jones Boulevard, eventually connecting with 240th Street. The second phase of improvements should be completed by late October.
A third major road improvement will impact travelers going toward Solon and residents of the Cedar Springs subdivision, though no complete closures or detours will be part of that project. The City of North Liberty and Johnson County are joining together to upgrade Mehaffey Bridge Road from the North Liberty to the bridge itself.
The road will be widened and resurfaced, with paved shoulders to match the existing stretch of road between Mehaffey Bridge and Solon.
North Liberty City Engineer Kevin Trom of Shive-Hattery said the resurfacing process is a cold, in-place recycling process, a faster and more cost-effective method of rebuilding asphalt roads.
“There will be some short-term closures, but the project itself will be open and pilot cars will direct traffic,” Trom said. A recent traffic count study indicated about 3,410 vehicles use the road per day. North Liberty is responsible for improvements on Front Street from Penn to the city limits, with an estimated cost obligation of $1,010,000 for design and construction. The city expects to fund the work through a combination of a general obligation bond and Tax Increment Financing (TIF) revenues.
A left-turn lane will be added at Cedar Springs Drive, in addition to the installation of LED street lights and a sidewalk on the west side of Front Street. The work is slated to begin sometime this month and will be finished this fall.
Johnson County is responsible for the estimated $1.525 million in improvements from North Liberty city limits to Chael Drive, about a half-mile east past Mehaffey Bridge. Johnson County Secondary Roads officials will host another public information meeting on the project Tuesday, May 13, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at South Slope in North Liberty.
North Liberty Parks Supervisor Guy Goldsmith and Recreation Supervisor Shelly Simpson were also on hand at the session to solicit feedback on a concept plan for changes to Penn Meadows Park, North Liberty’s largest and most-used park facility on the east edge of town. Some steps in the master plan are already underway at the park.
First, additional parking will be constructed near the existing parking on the north side of the park off Penn Street and near the gazebo on the south side as well. Trails between parking lots and ball diamonds will be paved, making access to all the park’s elements easier.
A new combined concession stand and restroom facility is also planned. Goldsmith said he is currently working with a couple of firms on the concession stand design. The city has budgeted $350,000 for the building, without the cost of water, sewer or electricity installation figured in.
“If everything goes as planned, we may even start on the concession stand as early as this fall,” Goldsmith said. The concessions and restrooms are needed to accommodate crowds at North Liberty Youth Baseball and Softball League games and during tournaments hosted by the city.
“We want it to be in a useable location by the splash pad and playground as well,” Goldsmith added.
A splash pad will be installed, the project voted upon by North Liberty residents who participated in the city’s Hometown Rewards energy saving initiative last year. The splash pad components have arrived already, Goldsmith said, but the city is still working out how to get water to the splash pad site.
As the plan proceeds, several of the park’s baseball and softball diamonds will be lit as well.
“A lot of the final games of the night are cut short because it gets dark, so that should eliminate that problem, Goldsmith said.
Updated information can be found on the website http://northlibertyiowa.org/government/projects. The site includes a place for people to leave comments or submit questions. Goldsmith said the public is welcome to attend the parks and recreation board meeting held on the first Thursday of every month at 7 p.m.