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$1.2M downtown traffic project to start

Springfield alliance says two-way traffic will be a boon for business.

The city of Springfield will begin construction this month on its $1.2 million two-way street conversion and streetscape improvements downtown on Fountain Avenue.

The block of North Fountain Avenue between Columbia and Main streets will change from one-way to two-way traffic. The project also includes brick pavers, new sidewalks, decorative street lights and repaving of the road.

The street conversion will be a boon to downtown businesses, said Sam Beloff, owner of Rose City Fine Jewelry and Loan at 26 N. Fountain Ave. He also serves as co-chairman of the Downtown Business Alliance and said the organization saw studies where other cities that changed one-way streets back to two-way traffic saw business increase rapidly.

Beloff said he understands communities don’t have the money to invest in these economic times, but said small improvements — like the streetscape and two-way conversion — are key to business owners.

“This is all extremely good news for Springfield,” Beloff said.

Springfield City Engineer Leo Shanayda said the project likely will get started by Memorial Day. Construction is expected to be completed by Nov. 1 because of the amount of time required to have traffic equipment delivered.

“We’re looking forward to finishing this section of the project, and getting this block converted to two-way,” Shanayda said.

The street will remain open to traffic during construction.

Shanayda isn’t concerned about traffic issues after the Fountain Avenue street conversion.

“It may be the first time going around people may make the wrong turn, but we think it’ll be all right,” Shanayda said.

A $5,000 street conversion study was done last year, and showed about $20,000 in modifications would be needed to several areas downtown to allow for the conversion. City commissioners approved converting the street to two-ways in November.

Springfield city commissioners agreed Tuesday to award the $1.2 million contract to A&B Asphalt of Springfield. The project had to be rebid because bids came in over budget the first time.

The streetscape project is paid for by federal earmarks awarded during former U.S. Rep. David Hobson’s final term in office. The city received a total of $6 million that paid for the North Street relocation project, the North Limestone Street bridge replacement and the North Fountain Avenue streetscape project. Shanayda said he appreciated the funding.

“We’re able to use all the monies he gave us to its full extent,” Shanayda said.

The corner of Fountain Avenue and Columbia Street is also the location of the city’s proposed $5 million to $10 million parking garage that could be three stories and add 450 parking spaces. The city is currently using the site as a parking lot and is looking for money to build the garage.

The section of Fountain Avenue between Ferncliff Drive and the fire station is expected to be paved in 2015.

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