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Moving 23rd forward

January 20, 2019

The 23rd Street corridor revamp project took another tentative step forward this week.

Representatives from Confluence (a landscape architecture and urban design firm from Omaha) and Wilson & Company (an engineering, architecture, planning and construction management firm from Omaha) spoke with members of the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce’s transportation and streetscaping committees, as well as Columbus city staff, during a meeting held Thursday at the Columbus Ramada Hotel & River’s Edge Convention Center.

Caitlin Bolte, of Confluence, brought a PowerPoint presentation and an overall cost estimate for the Draft Beautification Master Plan for those in attendance. The presentation contained more than 40 images of what the Draft Master Plan offers for the construction and landscaping plan.

Matt Bryant, of Wilson & Co., said he has been working closely with the Nebraska Department of Transportation on the project and its multiple components. He said the overall procedure takes time due to the various entities involved and the variety of options that have to be evaluated.

“I realize it’s frustrating,” Bryant said. “The process just takes time.”

NDOT previously announced plans to reconstruct 23rd Street, from just east of East Sixth Avenue to just east of 33rd Avenue in the next several years. City of Columbus Engineer Richard Bogus previously told The Telegram that the plan includes repaving the entire roadway, the replacement and addition of sidewalks, replacement of storm sewer lines and traffic signals, as well as other related work.

Wilson & Company and Confluence, hired by the Nebraska Department of Transportation, are working on the streetscaping elements.

NDOT has indicated that the project will take place regardless of what else may be attempted on 23rd Street, Bogus told The Telegram on Friday. The city will use the street construction as an opportunity to conduct much-needed repairs and replacement of worn out storm drains and water pipes, he said.

“While we ‘piggy-back’ on that operation, the streetscape work can be completed as well,” Bogus said. “Citizens could see a whole new 23rd Street corridor when everything is complete.”

Bolte presented what she described as a kit-of-parts for the beautification venture. Kit-of-parts construction grants flexibility and efficiency in assembly. A kit-of-parts concept can be assembled and taken apart in a variety of ways like a construction toy.

Attendees were presented with a smorgasbord of options for the enhancement aspect of the operation. Not all elements proposed are expected to be incorporated into the final draft. With a budget of $500,000, it will have to be decided what to take and what can be left behind - like a buffet. The money for streetscaping will come out of the city’s general fund, according to Columbus Mayor Jim Bulkley, as previously reported.

To simplify matters, Bolte offered three option packages to the committee: Option 1 amounted to $498,372.50; Option 2 came to $498,321.09; while Option 3 totaled $496,200.55. Differences in the number of hardscape accouterments, such as benches, floral pots and backlit street name signs accounted for a portion of the price differences. Softscape trimmings, such as shrubs, trees and prairie grass seeding, would also cause a price differential.

Faced with having to choose between numerous and varied selections, committee members are turning to the community for assistance in prioritizing. An open house meeting hosted by NDOT is scheduled to run from 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 12, at the American Legion, 2263 Third Ave. in Columbus, according to Bryant.

“Each scenario prioritized different streetscape amenities and enhancements to identify the highest value and impactful elements along the corridor,” Bryant told The Telegram. “Streetscape elements most important to the committee included trees, street light aesthetic enhancements, floral pots, backlit street signs and decorative crosswalk improvements. The design professionals will provide an updated project plan incorporating the committee’s recommendations.”

Input from members of the community is integral to the implementation strategy, said Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce Board Chairman Dennis Grennan.

“This is a chance for a great step forward,” he said. “It will help to be able to visualize the finished project.”

Jon Burleson is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at jon.burleson@lee.net.

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