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Council pushes ahead on '09 and '11 street work

Concern for the size of assessments that could hit St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church plus the impact of River's Edge development on Pullman Avenue made City Council members hesitate before ordering a feasibility report and preliminary assessment rolls for 2009 and 2011 street rehabilitation projects Oct. 20.

"The report just looks at all the options you want us to consider," city engineer Jeff Roos told the council. "There's no commitment to do the projects." He said the feasibility report is good for a year and can be expanded or reduced depending on council decisions.

The proposed '09 project would include Pullman Avenue from Chicago to Summit Avenue, and streets between Pullman and 11th avenues: Aurora, McCammon, Marshall, Dayton, Selby, Laurel, Ashland, Holley and Portland. Estimated cost of the project is $2.2 million, with $1.5 million to be paid by special assessments to property owners and city funds. The project is eligible for slightly more than $700,000 in state aid, according to the preliminary engineering report.

The 2011 project would include 11th Avenue between Summit and Lincoln avenues, plus Portland, Holley, Åshland and Laurel avenues between 11th and Ninth avenues. The cost is estimated at $1.4 million to be paid by special assessments to property owners and city funds.

The 2011 project includes one cross street and two side streets that surround St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church property.

"I'd be interested in asking the church its situation," said council member Tim Jones. "We've done everything we can do to limit the pain for other residents and we don't want to hit the church with a huge assessment." In 2002, the church paid for reconstruction work on Ninth Avenue, its northern boundary.

Roos told council members the side streets around the church will be given corner lot adjustments, and the church's assessment should be less.

"Let us put a cost estimate together for all the streets around the church; maybe we can come up with a different scope of work," he said.

Considering the reconstruction of Pullman Avenue, council member Jeff Swenson asked Roos if the street would have to be reworked again as traffic increases from the River's Edge development.

"We're already anticipating the increased traffic loads on Pullman and it will be rebuilt [as proposed in the 2009 project] to handle those loads," Roos said.

Council member Steve Hunstad asked about safety features around Pullman Elementary School, which faces Pullman Avenue. "I want to make sure we think about traffic around the school, especially if the number of cars using Pullman triples as it is expected to do within the next 10 years," Hunstad said. He wants engineers to consider widening the street, changing the curbing at three student crossings and possibly adding a turn lane.

Hunstad also asked if the upgrade on Pullman would be assessed to the River's Edge developer.

"We will look at everything we looked at earlier with regard to River's Edge; we must make sure they comply with state guidelines," Roos said. He said the feasibility reports should be ready for council review in four to six weeks, or early December.

"We'll act on the reports right away," Hunstad said in a later interview. "By December, we'll know what we can do; the roads aren't getting any better, we can't afford to wait."