April 22nd, 2024

Major road work on Third Street set to begin in April

By COLLIN GALLANT on March 14, 2024.

Crews will replace water and sewer pipes beneath two blocks of a busy business district on Third Street in downtown Medicine Hat this summer. -- News Photo Collin Gallant, March 13, 2024


Business owners are hoping the city can deliver on a promise that major road work on Third Street will done as quickly as possible this summer and avoid problems that plagued a similar project on the next block over.

Starting next month, contractor Hamm Construction will begin replacing sewer and water lines along the 500 and 600 blocks of Third Street downtown, part of a long-range plan to overhaul 100-year-old infrastructure and improve streets.

Local Pub and Eatery owner Mike Waskalik said he sees the long-term gain, but admits the hassle will cause short term pain.

“It’s understandable that they have to do it, but there is concern about the impact,” said Waskalik, who is looking forward to seeing the improved roadway and sidewalks.

But, he is already contemplating potential ways to shield his patio that will look onto active construction for six to eight weeks during busy season.

“It could be a challenge, but I hope it will be quick.”

City officials at an open house Tuesday night at the Esplanade for those affected outlined they will maintain utility service and pedestrian access throughout the work, performed by Hamm Construction.

They also highlighted “lessons” learned on previous projects for new work that has been scheduled to move ahead for the last five years.

Work to renew underground infrastructure throughout the core started on First and Second streets, along with South Railway Street were completed in block by block fashion starting in 2012.

But that process came with some pain in 2013 when the initial portion of Second Street took four months to complete, leading to widespread complaints from business owners. Further legs in 2015 saw the city terminate its contract with an out of town firm and re-award the piping, road improvements and paving contracts.

City councillor Shila Sharps operates a business of the central business district, and said she is confident that business owners will see a difference

“I was down on Second Street and it was not fun,” she said. “There has been a lot of learning since then.”

That new plan includes working with property owners since last fall to arrange plumbing connection upgrades to go ahead simultaneously with road work.

Hamm Construction will also arrange an offsite parking lot and bus workers to the sites to avoid taking up what parking spots remain.

The end result will be a two-block stretch and will feature designed and stamped concrete sidewalks, new planters, trees, mid-block crosswalks, benches and bike-racks.

“Second Street is the model,” said city chief engineer Stan Nowakowski, who said traffic patterns were studied in 2021 as part of River Front downtown strategy and no changes to existing one-or two-way streets are planned.

Once complete Luc Beriault, owner of the 640 Professional building on the block said the time will allow him to complete his own renovations and re-establish clientele before civil work proceeds.

“I’m confident that they can (avoid problems),” said Beriault. “It’s an investment and it will beautify the city.

“It is what it is, nobody likes construction right outside, but it’s the price of growth.”

The work involves five phases, including three intersections: the corners of Second St. and Sixth Ave. (Including the 200 Block of Sixth Ave.), Third St. and Sixth Ave., along with Fifth Ave. and Third St.

Two other phases are the 600 and 500 Blocks of Third street, which could take eight weeks each to complete, while the block south of Thrird Street of Sixth Avenue would be completed in 2025.

Cody Byam, the project manager for the city said that the schedule of work will see crews on site at various phases from early April until late fall, depending on weather.

“It’s one of the oldest streets in Medicine Hat, so the potential for unknowns is quite high,” he told the News this week at an open house.

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